Last year we called shenanigans on the seemingly-random, but actually predictable “updates” about March 18 1990 theft of paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, and others from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Our point last year was simple: the manufactured stories about what the FBI claims to know (“confirmed sightings” and the supposed identity of the supposed thief) are worse than no news. The FBI has no idea where those paintings are, and I am highly skeptical of the FBI’s claims to know who did it. It’s theoretically possible that protecting the identity of a dead thief would be important to an ongoing investigation, but that presupposes that there is anything going on. I am unpersuaded that anything new has happened in years.
As if the Cornelius/Hildebrand Gurlitt saga needed any more complications as the world awaits the official decision by the Kunstmuseum Bern about whether to accept the appointment as Cornelius Gurlitt’s heir, even more artwork has apparently turned up. Der Spiegel, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Wall Street Journal have reported that one picture and several sculptures in the very apartment from which the original trove was seized more than two years ago. Among the sculptures are apparently a Degas and a Rodin. Nothing else seems known about the works or their ownership history, or whether they might be among works that Hildebrand Gurlitt sold or acquired as "degenerate" (side note: the Victoria and Albert Museum's copy of the Degenerate Art Action register is currently on display in New York at the Neue Galerie's exhibition of that title. While it is available online, it is most certainly worth a visit before the show ends).
Topics: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Victoria and Albert Museum, Rodin, Cornelius Gurlitt, Schwabinger Kunstfund. Kunstfund München, Gurlitt Task Force, Fall Gurlitt, Gurlitt Collection, Degas, Hildebrand Gurlit, Entartete Kunst, Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, Neue Galerie, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, World War II, Degenerate Art Action, degenerate art, Kunstmuseum Bern, www.lostart.de, Nazi art, Raubkunst
The FBI said today that the bureau has received “confirmed” sightings of the works of art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Thieves dressed as police robbed the museum of thirteen major works of art on March 18, 1990, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet. Read carefully, however, the story is nothing new at all, just a retelling of last year’s “news” released around the anniversary of the theft and a raft of conjecture.
Topics: Gardner Heist, Philadelphia, Robert Guarente, Degas, and Robert Gentile, Carmello Merlino, The Storm on the Sea of Gallilee, Manet Richard DesLauriers, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston Globe, FBI, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Museums, Special Agent Geoff Kelly, La Cosa Nostra
We’ve been following a number of prominent stories for several weeks now and thinking about what they mean in the crossover between art and the law. It’s fair to say that a theme is starting to develop, namely, that after the Beltracchi forgery trial in Cologne, the Warhol Foundation’s decision to close its doors to authentication requests, and the brewing scandal over the authenticity of paintings sold by Knoedler and other galleries, the legal significance of knowing—and even asking—the age-old question from Art History 101—“who made that?”—has come again to the fore.
Topics: Cologne, Forgery, Knoedler, slander, The Art Newspaper, Inc., Degas, Jackson Pollock, libel, catalogue raisonné, Wolfgang Beltracchi, Collections, Francis Bacon, The Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, defamation, Georgina Adam, The Art Law Blog, connoisseurship