Published: April 17, 2001
Trade News from around the World
A federal judge has given final approval to a $537 million settlement of lawsuits brought by customers of Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses in a price fixing case. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan had withheld final approval for several weeks because the deal blocked people from being able to sue in U.S. courts for auctions that occurred overseas. But in granting approval April 13, Kaplan told Larry Neumeister of AP the settlement was “fair, reasonable and adequate” because lawyers agreed that suits stemming from auctions abroad would be allowed unless an appeals court decides otherwise. Steven Alan Reiss, a lawyer for Sotheby’s, said payments from the settlement could go to customers of the auction houses within months if there are no additional legal challenges to the approved deal.
One of the FBI’s greatest catches is safe in the Baseball Hall of Fame after agents recovered four priceless baseballs stolen from Cooperstown, N.Y., reports Michael Gormley of the Associated Press. FBI agents said they traced the possessors of the four balls signed by presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover through auction houses. The trail led all the way back to pitching great Walter “Big Train” Johnson, who got them signed. But despite the efforts of FBI agents and unreleased information gleaned through a grand jury, agents said April 12 that anyone who ran afoul of the law of possession of stolen property will not be charged. “We can’t make a criminal case,” said FBI Special Agent Michael Bassett. He said the evidence collected isn’t strong enough despite work on the case since late 1999 after a descendant of Johnson recognized one of the baseballs in an auction catalog.
Police have solved the burglary of 11 rare pieces of Hopi pottery from San Diego’s Museum of Man one year ago, but the artifacts remain missing. Police believe a 30-year-old drug user committed the first burglary in the museum’s history in January 2000, police Sgt. Joe Wood told the Associated Press April 13. Investigators have questioned the man and were seeking a warrant for his arrest. Police originally thought an art theft ring was behind the break-in, but talk on the street led them to a local methamphetamine addict. When the burglar failed to sell the artifacts, he dumped them in the bushes near a Mira Mesa elementary school sometime between June and August, he said. The objects have since disappeared and police are seeking the public’s help in finding them. Ten of the pieces were made between the 1960s and 1980s by descendants of the famous Hopi Indian artist Nampeyo, who helped start the Southwest art movement in the Nineteenth Century. The tan clay pieces are painted with stark designs in red, orange and black. The other piece was made in 1915 by the late Maria Martinez of New Mexico’s San Ildefonso pueblo. She is known for her black-on-black pottery.
The Earl Spencer -via Sotheby’s press office – announced his decision to postpone the auction of the contents of the attics at Althorp. The sale, originally scheduled for June, will now be rescheduled for the spring of 2002. “Given the grave concerns about the spread of foot and mouth disease and the impossibility of predicting when the situation will improve, my most important priority right now must be to ensure that Althorp can safely open to the public as scheduled on July 1,” said Spencer. “As the preparations for the auction and for the sale itself would take up most of the month of June, I am concerned that these activities might jeopardize the public exhibition.”
At Sotheby’s on January 19, Historic Deefield’s executive director Donald R. Friary, with the assistance of Americana dealer Leigh Keno, added the only known example of a Hadley carved drawer table to the western Massachusetts museum collection. Made around 1700 within a few miles of Deerfield, the table passed through the hands of the late New Hampshire antiques dealer Roger Bacon nearly 20 years ago to private collectors who consigned it to Sotheby’s for the 2001 Americana sales. The carved drawer table will be on view beginning this spring in The Museum’s Attic at the Flynt Center of Early New England Life. The table, featured in a 1941 article in Magazine Antiques, was then in the collection of B.A. Behrend of Wellesley, Mass. Single, large dovetails join the drawer sides to the front and rosehead nails secure them on the back. Channels for the slides on which the drawer is side-hung cut through the dovetails. The slides overlap the leg posts and are nailed into grooves cut into these posts. The drawer bottom is made of three thin, pine boards butted with double-rabbeted joints. Atypically for tables of this type, horizontal rails are absent both above and below the drawer. The table’s top consists of a single pine board originally pegged to the tops of the leg posts. A later coat of red paint now graces the table.
Neuberger Museum of Art Board member Marc Ginzberg and his wife Denyse have donated a rare African knife and sheath to the Purchase, N.Y. museum. The work is attributed to an artist from the Bane, an ethnic subgroup of the Fang peoples in southern Cameroon and northern Gabon. The knife has a finely sculpted wood haft in the form of a head with inlaid bead eyes, a backswept coiffure with linear diagonal incisions, and metal neck rings. Below the head, the cylindrical part for the haft features incised designs in the shape of two hands on one side and an animal on the other. The exceptional craftsmanship and elaborate materials of the knife and sheath suggest a function more ceremonial that utilitarian. In its original context, the knife was likely used as an insignia of membership in a local professional association. Ceremonial knives from this area may also function in a funerary context, serving as a grave marker upon the death of its owner. Works attributed to the Bane are rarely seen in museum collections, and this particular work complements the Neuberger Museum of Art’s already strong collection of central African art. The Bane knife and sheath will be displayed in July at part of the reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection of African art.
The Smithsonian Institution wants to be linked with two Arizona facilities: the relatively new Challenger Space Learning Center and the planned Robert McCall Museum of Art. In announcing the proposal on April 13, Smithsonian officials said the affiliation would allow the centers to draw on Smithsonian exhibits. The Smithsonian has 64 such affiliates in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Five are in southern Arizona. Scottsdale sought one unsuccessfully in 1997.
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