Returned. Dutch landscape artist Jan van Goyen’s “The Ferry” (1625) was returned to the heirs of its rightful owner, Czech-born Erwin Langweil. The painting, which Nazis stole after its owners fled to Kenya, is worth an estimated $320,000 to $440,000. Langweil’s heirs hired the Toronto-based Mondex Corp. in 2015 and the restitution was complete on October 29, 2019. The family viewed the painting for the first time in June.
Another one. Five-hundred stolen ancient artifacts that had been confiscated by French authorities at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2006 were returned to Pakistan in early July. These pots will help archaeologists studying the Balochistan region fill in gaps in knowledge. The French gallery that had purchased them, which has not been publicly named, will receive a fine between $112,000 and $226,000 for trafficking stolen goods.
Stolen, Restituted, Sold. Heinrich Iselin’s “Christ as the Man of Sorrows”, which had been seized by the Nazis in 1937, was returned to its previous owners, the Fuld estate, earlier this year and subsequently sold for £60,000 at an auction. The money will go to Magen David Adom UK, the British branch of the Israeli medical services charity. Although both Henry Fuld Sr and Henry Fuld Jr are deceased, their art collection continues to grow as more items have been returned to the estate.
AI-ming at Culture. Microsoft announced a $125 million program on July 11 as part of its two-year effort to use artificial intelligence (“AI”) for altruistic purposes. Its cultural heritage initiative will celebrate people, language, places, and relevant artefacts. Microsoft will especially focus on using AI to protect extinct languages, such as Maya and Otomi. It will also continue to collaborate with museums and other organizations in the future.
When the Saints Go Marching Home. Sotheby’s returned a 1450s French sculpture depicting Saint Michael slaying a dragon after British Museum curator, Dr. Lloyd de Beer, discovered the work was stolen from a church in 1969. It was promptly repatriated to France when the owner, who had purchased the piece from Sotheby’s, returned it to the auction house.
Homeward Bound. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) identified nearly 100 stolen artifacts seized in the U.S., some from the collection of Indian art dealer Subhash Kapoor, as original antiquities of substantial value. Among the seized artifacts include statues stolen from the Suttamali and Sripurantan temples of Tamil Nadu. Alongside these items were also a series of terracotta objects that the Toledo Museum in Ohio voluntarily returned.
Homeward Bound (Part II). Germany agreed to repatriate Dutch master Jan van Huysum’s Vase of Flowers to the Uffizi, following the Italian museum’s call for its return. The painting has remained in the possession of an unidentified German family since a German soldier looted it in 1943. German authorities were initially hesitant to intervene, given the 30-year statute of limitation on crimes, leading Uffizi head Eike Schmidt to call for the end of statute of limitations on Nazi-looted artwork.
Angling for Angela. A warrant was issued for the arrest of German art collector and heiress, Angela Gulbenkian, after she failed to appear at the Westminster Magistrates Court in London on June 26. Gulbenkian faces two charges of theft totaling $1.38 million, one of which relates to the sale of a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture.
Art You Sure These Belong to You? A study conducted by the German Lost Art Foundation found that up to eight percent of acquisitions from four German museums in Brandenberg were probably acquired through state-sanctioned seizures and thefts instigated by the East German state. The museums examined in the study included the Viadrina Museum in Frankfurt, and several local museums in the towns of Strausberg, Eberswalde, and Neruppin.
Qui Tacet (Non) Consentire Videtur. Art Basel removed a panel from Andrea Bowers’ Open Secret installation when digital media strategist and writer Helen Donohue discovered that it included photos depicting her physical abuse at the hands of Michael Hafford, a Vice contributor. Donohue demanded that the piece be removed, leading Bowers to issue an apology and to concede that she should have asked for Donohue’s consent.
Judith Will Not Be-Heading to Auction. The Caravaggio-attributed Judith and Holofernes, famously discovered in a Toulouse attic in 2014, was sold to billionaire J. Tomilson Hill ahead of its widely-anticipated auction in June at Marc Labarbe. The painting, valued at $170 million, was expected to set a new auction record for the Italian painter. However, there are still doubts about the painting’s attribution.
A Little More Privacy. International auction house, Sotheby’s, was taken private in June after French billionaire Patrick Drahi acquired it for $3.7 billion through his U.S.-based company, BidFair USA. The 275-year-old institution’s return to private ownership after 31 years as a public company is likely to have a ripple effect on the rest of the auction industry. Per the agreement, Sotheby’s shareholders are to receive $57 a share.
Strength in Numbers. The newly-established International Catalogue Raisonné Association (ICRA), which promotes preserving an artist’s body of works, was created in response to recent high-profile lawsuits regarding art authenticity. Membership to ICRA is open to creators of an artist’s catalogue raisonné, and includes access to legal panels, conferences, and networking events. Art lawyer Pierre Valentin, a partner at Constantine Cannon LLP, chairs IRCA’s board.
Dealing with New-Deal Era Murals. The San Francisco school board unanimously voted to cover a 13-panel mural at George Washington High School depicting slaves and European colonists at Mount Vernon walking across the body of a Native American. The mural was painted by Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff, who sought to provide a critical perspective on American history. Efforts to cover up the mural are expected to exceed $600,000. [We wrote a two-part series of article on that topic: Part I and Part II.]
They Didn’t Start the Fire (But They Have to Put it Out). The reconstruction of Notre Dame will not be a topic for discussion at the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s 42nd annual meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan. France failed to produce a full report on the fire that ravaged the landmark cathedral in time for the meeting, which runs from June 30 to July 10. The French state has pledged to produce a report by December 2019, which is likely to be discussed by the UNESCO committee in June 2020.
No More Hiding. French curator Nicholas Bourriaud’s latest project, the MoCo Hôtel des Collections, seeks to be the solution to several persistent problems by displaying artworks from private collectors, preventing collectors who buy artwork as investments from hiding these “investments” in storage. MoCo also managed to amass a collection without its own fortune.