Published: September 11, 2001
Trade News from around the World
The heirs of a Jewish art collector whose rare prayer books were allegedly stolen from his French home by Nazis may proceed with a lawsuit to reclaim the collection, a Manhattan judge ruled September 5. Samuel Maull of the Associated Press writes that State Supreme Court Justice Marylin Diamond rejected a request to dismiss the lawsuit either on the grounds that the statute of limitations had run out or that the court had no jurisdiction over the individual defendants. The defendants are Wildenstein & Co., which owns two art galleries in New York; Daniel Wildenstein, former head of the company; and his two sons, Alec and Guy Wildenstein, both of whom work in the gallery business. Diamond also said “the defendants have not submitted any proof of when, where, and from whom the Wildenstein family originally obtained the manuscripts.” Therefore, she said, there remains a question of whether the Wildensteins obtained the manuscripts in good faith. Relatives of the collector, Alphonse Kann, filed the lawsuit after the eight manuscripts from the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries, known as “Books of Hours,” turned up at the Wildenstein Gallery in Manhattan in 1996. The plaintiffs say Kann amassed more than 1,200 pieces of art including paintings by Picasso, Manet, Degas and Matisse, and the valuable manuscripts before he fled his home in 1939 just before Germany occupied France.
Swiss art dealers sold paintings plundered from Nazi victims to Adolf Hitler and one of his top aides, a new study said August 31, writes Alexander G. Higgins of the Associated Press. Dozens of works, some stolen from Jews and others sold by German refugees desperate to raise cash, flowed through neutral Switzerland’s art houses as World War II engulfed Europe, said an international panel of experts, which released eight volumes of material on Switzerland’s conduct. The revelations came in a new installment of a massive five-year study on Switzerland’s wartime role. “Switzerland was a trade center for looted assets and flight assets from Nazi Germany and the occupied territories,” the report said. Previously the panel has documented Switzerland’s financial dealings with the Nazis and how it handled gold for the Nazis.
Two lawsuits have been filed, one by a prominent Indianapolis family that controls The Saturday Evening Post and the other by the heirs of the magazine’s former art director, disputing ownership of three Norman Rockwell paintings. The lawsuits, filed simultaneously this month in Indiana and Connecticut, are in response to a Sotheby’s auction scheduled for this summer where the paintings were to be sold, The Indianapolis Star reported August 30, according to AP. Beurt SerVaas, an Indianapolis businessman who has presided over the City-County Council for a quarter-century, bought the magazine in 1970. His family and the Post have filed a lawsuit seeking the return of the paintings from the heirs of Kenneth J. Stuart, the Post’s art director from 1943-62. Stuart, who died in 1993, ended up with several paintings when he left the magazine, claiming Rockwell had given them to him in friendship. His heirs have formed a family-owned partnership called Stuart & Sons. Their lawsuit claims the SerVaas family and the Post are interfering with their plans to sell the paintings.
According to Ed Johnson of the Associated Press, The Church of England has provoked criticism with a plan to sell one of its most valuable collections of paintings – a series by the Seventeenth Century Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran. The collection, “Jacob and His Twelve Sons,” has hung in Auckland Castle – the official residence of the bishop of Durham – for 250 years and is considered to be a significant tourist attraction. The present bishop says he hopes the paintings can stay in the area. The commissioners, responsible for managing the church’s assets, are considering selling the paintings – reportedly valued at $14.5 million) or more – to help fund the church’s ministry. Labor lawmaker Derek Foster has led opposition to a sale. He claims the Zurbaran paintings are a national treasure, and an important part of northern England’s cultural heritage.
Another British institution was also the target of censure recently. James Beck, founder of New York-based ArtWatch International, has criticized the National Gallery in London for an upcoming exhibition on the Fifteenth Century painter Masaccio, saying the risks in transporting the works far outweigh any benefit to the public, writes AP’s Nicole Winfield. The National Gallery has in turn accused Beck of defamation and asked that he clarify “misleading” statements he made in urging the four museums that have agreed to loan their Masaccios to send reproductions instead. The dispute has highlighted the debate in museum circles of how to satisfy the public’s growing appetite for blockbuster shows that bring together treasures from around the globe without damaging the works. The National Gallery’s exhibition will reunite the surviving panels of a 1426 altarpiece by Masaccio, one of the most important painters of the early Renaissance.
Sir Arthur Gilbert, famous for the Gilbert Collection Trust, passed away on September 2 in Los Angeles after a long illness. Born on May 16, 1913 in Golders Green, London, he emigrated to California in 1949 where he had lived ever since. “His bequest, thought to be worth more than $300 million,” writes Alan Riding of The New York Times, “is now housed in the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House on the banks of the Thames and comprises some 850 objects spanning the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth centuries, including silverware, gold snuff boxes, micromosaics and enameled portrait miniatures.” When he heard of the ambitious and imaginative plans for Somerset House, Gilbert said: “This enthralled me and enticed me to choose Somerset House because it would become a palace for the people of England and the world.” The museum represents Sir Arthur’s love of the interaction between works of art and the public for whom he actually assembled his collection. Since opening to the public on May 26, 2000, the Gilbert Collection has attracted some 210,000 visitors.
According to the Associated Press, painter and printmaker Gabor Peterdi, 85, who taught at the Yale School of Art for nearly 30 years, died August 13 at a hospice in Stamford, Conn. His work is in many museums, and he wrote an essay on printmaking for the 15th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1975. Peterdi also wrote a book, Printmaking: Methods Old and New.
Juan Munoz, 48, a sculptor whose work has been featured in exhibitions around the world, died August 28 of a heart attack while vacationing in the Mediterranean. “Juan Munoz was a distinctive figure within a generation of European artists whose work has significantly extended the language of sculpture,” Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, told AP. “His figurative sculpture drew on Spanish tradition, but was informed by an understanding of modernist practice.”
Ethel Scull, 79, an art patron who was the subject of a 1963 Andy Warhol painting, died August 27 of a heart attack after a stroke, reports AP. “Ethel Scull 36 Times,” comprised of 36 silk-screen images made from snapshots taken in a Times Square photo booth, was made during the height of Scull’s social status as a Pop art patron. She and her husband, Robert, gained fame in the art world for buying work from then-unknown artists, such as Walter de Maria and Michael Heizer, and building a major collection of Pop and Minimal art worth millions.
Following in the footsteps of Art.com, Onview.com, eArtGroup.com and Eppraisals.com, ARTonline, Inc. is going out of business. “Our majority shareholders have voted not to continue funding [our firm] as a viable enterprise,” a September 5 email advised users. “The company will close its doors on October 1, 2001 and the remaining assets will be liquidated or sold at auction. We deeply regret any inconvenience our users may have suffered as a result of this action, and hope you can find similar services in the world of Internet marketing.”
Two of the Internet bust’s most conspicuous survivors, IBM Corp. and eBay Inc., announced an agreement to make IBM software integral to the online auction leader’s operations, reports AP’s Jim Krane. As part of the deal – whose terms were not released – eBay will rebuild its popular consumer auction site using IBM software called WebSphere, a “middleware” product used by large businesses to handle Internet transactions. EBay CEO Meg Whitman said the site had no middleware before WebSphere. The site was essentially running on the same architecture that the company put together in 1997. With eBay growing quickly and planning on facilitating as much as $40 billion in merchandise sales four or five years from now, the company needed to overhaul its infrastructure.
Henry H. Hawley has been appointed interim curatorial chair and Tom Hinson as assistant curatorial chair of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Diane De Grazia, who has been the museum’s chief curator since 1995, has resigned to pursue longtime personal and professional goals. In these interim positions, Hawley and Hinson will oversee the curatorial division, which includes 13 curatorial departments, the exhibition office, registrar’s office, and photographic and digital imaging services. They will remain in these posts until the newly created position of deputy director for collections and programs is filled. A national search is now underway for this position, which will oversee the museum’s divisions of conservation, curatorial, and education and public programs.
David Mickenberg has been named Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. Mickenberg, who has been director of the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University for 14 years, will assume his new post at Wellesley full time in January. In addition to his museum duties, he will hold an academic appointment as senior lecturer in art. Mickenberg succeeds Susan M. Taylor who left Wellesley last summer to become the director of The Art Museum, Princeton University.
The Majesty of Spain exhibition has ended its six-month run in Jackson, drawing about 2,500 visitors on its last day at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion. Jack Kyle, executive director of the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, was joined by Spanish officials for the 10 p.m. August 27 closing ceremonies. Earlier Monday, Kyle said the exhibit had had 318,000 visitors. “Approximately 325,000 [visitors] is what we charted to break even. It will be a little less or a little more,” he told the Associated Press. The exhibition could also end up being the highest-attended art exhibition in the Southeast, with a $35 million to $40 million impact on Mississippi, Kyle said.
The National Portrait Gallery, London has acquired Julian Opie’s portrait of pop group Blur and self-portraits by two of Britain’s most important female artists Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas. Opie’s portraits of Blur were acquired as a gift from the National Art Collections Fund with the support of the Lisson Gallery. Commissioned for the cover of the band’s album Blur: the best of the portraits were created using photographs of band members Damon Albarn, Dave Rowntree, Alex James and Graham Coxon. The four images are “digital drawings” conveying the essential information with the minimum of detail. The commercialization of the images, known the world over from advertising hoardings, mugs, t-shirts and CDs, has provoked intense Warholesque debate about the relationship between high art and commercial art.
The Marshall Steel Sr Conservation Internship Endowment is making it possible for Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg to build a training center for prospective conservators. In the past ten years, more than 100 people, from both the United States and abroad, have interned in the conservation laboratories at Colonial Williamsburg. In 1992, Marshall and Jane Steel of Pebble Beach, Calif., recognized the need for funds to assist in the training of conservators at Colonial Williamsburg and established an endowment in the name of Steel’s father, Marshall Steel, Sr. The internship program grew significantly during the 1990s, as funds from the endowment were augmented by two generous matching grants from the J. Paul Getty Grant Program.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm