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What do you think is the biggest art scandal in the past century?

 
 
Reply Tue 15 Sep, 2009 11:18 pm
1. The Gardner Museum Heist, the largest and still unsolved art heist in the history of art?
http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/arttheft/northamerica/us/isabella/isabella.htm

2. Massive corruption scandals associated with the two biggest art auction houses, Sothebys and Christies, involving charges of price fixing between the two largest art auction houses? http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/03/business/court-accepts-sotheby-s-guilty-plea-in-price-fixing.html?scp=1&sq=Sotheby%20and%20Christie%20price%20fixing&st=cse
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/16/nyregion/christie-s-ex-executive-admits-cover-up-of-price-fixing.html?scp=5&sq=Sotheby%20and%20Christi e%20price%20fixing&st=cse

3. The all too numerous amount of fakes and forgeries that are being revealed in the art market and many are hanging on the walls of well established art museums? One such example: http://artnews.com/issues/article.asp?art_id=2708

4. Public funding of highly controversial works of art? For example: The infamous incident art scandal between the former mayor of NYC, Rudy Giuliani, the Brooklyn Museum exhibit, Sensation, the artist, Chris Ofili, and his work The Holy Virgin Mary, "adorned" with elephant dung?
http://www.viewzone.com/review.sensation.html
Interesting timeline of the scandal: I will not vouch for or against the facts at hand as my knowledge of the scandal is somewhat limited:
http://www.artnotart.com/f-sensation.html

5. The overinflated prices of the works of the so called art greats. That a work of art such as a Monet painting could be valued then sold for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars? Maybe more relevant these days since many art institutions ponied up monstrous size checks for individual works (in the booming 80's and 90's) and presently are in dire financial circumstances.

6. That many major art institutions still own and refuse to return works of art which have been claimed as stolen/looted from their respective native countries? http://www.elginism.com/20080129/960/

7. Other?

I encourage you to find your own sources for these stories. You might find something better then what I have here to explain some of the scandals better then these sources.
~
It takes at least two to dialogue. Anything less is just a rant.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 9 • Views: 7,670 • Replies: 75

 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Sep, 2009 11:56 pm
@tsarstepan,
Hello, tsarstepan. Interesting question. There's the matter of the Getty acquisition a while back, with one of the Getty higher ups being under indictment in Italy; I'd have to review the details and I'm sleepy right now.
So - I'm just posting to say "welcome to A2K".
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 12:12 am
the most scandalous thing about art in the last century is a toss-up between how outrageously expensive it has become, and how low of quality it has become.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 04:54 am
@hawkeye10,
Ive always been a student of the major art forgers from the mid 1700's on up. Art forgery has always been a "high art" and during the last century the most famous (IMHO) was the faking of the "early Vermeers" by the DUtch artit Han van Meegeren. His work was so good to the critics of the day, that he was accused of selling "NAtional Dutch Treasures" to the NAzis, specifically Herman Gowering.
At the end of WWII, van Meegeren was in such hot water with the Nuremburg tribunals that he was required to actually paint a "vermeer" in orser to save his own ass. (He was on trial for collaboration). When in all reality, Van Meegeren was frustrated throughout his life at the Art juries and academies that selected works for major shows. He was often passed over and to prove that he was an artist of merit , he began fakind works of several old masters with Vermeer as his most frequent target of his form of admiration.

Several other artists like de Hory and Whacker and a few others had had brief but spectacular careers faking works of post impressionists and expressionists .

Several museums are proud owners of major fakes and dont reveal it to the public because itd make them look stupid. One museum Im familiar with, The WInterthur Foundation and Museum has a huge collection of american decorative arts based upon the personal collection of Irenee Dupont. Apparently Mr Dupont was a favorite target of those who made fake pieces with the express purpose to decieve. Winterthur, instead of hiding their works under a basket, will do vast amounts of scholarship and lab analyses to determine just why the faked work was so good. They then have periodic shows about what theyve learned and these shows are fascinating .

I reacll a show that they did in 2003 about the fake peieces of American silver in their collections. They did extensive xray and metallurgical analyses to determine the material and makers methods between say, real Revere silver and fake Revere silver.

The results of their scholarship was a new high in conservatory sciences and forensics. I always look forward to their next show of "fakes and forgeries"

Just my two cent.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 04:55 am
@hawkeye10,
Are you saying that the art of today is of lower quality than that of say 100 years ago? How do you arrive at this pronouncement?
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 06:28 am
Froma purely self-interested standpoint, I'd say it's the Gardner Museum heist. That oasis of a museum in mucky Boston before the heist was an easy place to be, as you toured the amazing collection. Running off with a Rembrant, is well, pretty major.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 08:33 am
@tsarstepan,
The issue of "pooling" and price fixing has been a problem for decades , especially in the decorative arts. Auction houses have often joined ranks and decided on a set price among them and , when the piece is sold, the "pool" of dealers shares in the profits from the resale. Its been a crime that's been hard to catch, especially when the auction houses become active partners.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 01:44 pm
@farmerman,
That was the least exciting option but I didn't want to omit it from the list just in case someone here actually had a proper anecdote that could make the scandal more relevant and noteworthy.

It's like the recent financial crisis. Sure it effects a million people in some particularly nasty ways, its just not that exciting to revisit and read about. In fact its downright depressing.

Over the past couple of years, I've been reading articles in both ARTnews and Art in America over the controversial "looted" classical works that are presently residing in some of the countries biggest art institutions. Some like the Getty are resistant to giving their works back to the native countries, while institutions like the MET and the MFA of Boston and even the art museum at Yale University (if memory serves me) were willing to preempt legal and criminal investigatory action by making deals with the native countries for the return of the looted classical works of art.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2009 01:52 pm
@Gala,
Yeah. Its pretty haunting to visit the museum and still see the empty frame/blank wall where some of the works used to be. At this point, it seems like it will never get solved. That's a colossal pity. That these wonderful works of art will only be witnessed/adored by some boss of a crime syndicate or perhaps even rot away in someone's cellar. Don't know which fate is worse.
Gala
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Sep, 2009 05:54 am
@tsarstepan,
I find art theft to be the most intriguing of crimes. The investigations go on for years and years and often never get solved. I've heard stories about the people assigned to solve the crimes live with chronic never-ending stress as their case's drag on and on.
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Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 02:00 am
@Gala,
I lived in Boston during the Gardner heist and it was and is an unbelievably complex saga.

It just occured to me that the Gardner coffers were getting depleted and museum maintenance is expensive. I can't imagine what it would cost to insure the collection. And I wonder what the stolen pieces were insured for, and whst did the Gardner collect ? Inside job?
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 02:43 am
@Sglass,
Sglass wrote:

I lived in Boston during the Gardner heist and it was and is an unbelievably complex saga.

It just occured to me that the Gardner coffers were getting depleted and museum maintenance is expensive. I can't imagine what it would cost to insure the collection. And I wonder what the stolen pieces were insured for, and whst did the Gardner collect ? Inside job?


You might recall, dear, that at the time of the Gardner disaster I was doing some security work at the MFA. The guessing among the insiders was that it almost had to be an inside job. The thieves knew way too much about security at the museum, certainly more than a casual visitor could ever learn, even if he tried to make a surreptitious study of the layout, schedules of guards etc. etc.
Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 03:25 am
@Merry Andrew,
Did a tiny bit of reading and it seems that the art was not insured and the heisters
had hoped to negotiate $$$ with the insurance company for return of the art.
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 03:57 am
@Sglass,
If the art was not insured, then why would the insurance company negotiate with the heisters?

It should be to the owner to negotiate then..
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 11:46 am
@Merry Andrew,
The insider theory makes sense, (security, maintenance, other department?). But not in terms of say someone from the curatorial department considering ... remember the random nature of what objects and paintings they ended up taking.

Remember they ended up taking not the most expensive and valuable of the art works, with a few exceptions. Remember the speculation that it was a seemingly random art grab bag heist of sorts.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 02:37 pm
@tsarstepan,
What can I say except that it might not have been quite as random as the press reported (and the museum's publicity dept. quickly endorsed). There were at least two items for which there was a potential (illegal) market. It was speculated that the other objects might have been grabbed just to make it look like a random amateur job.
Sglass
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 02:39 pm
@Francis,
I'm sorry Francis if I was obtuse.

What I really meant to say the thieves unknowingly stole paintings that were not insured.

Google Myles Connors who is a major player in the Gardner heist. Fascinating.

Francis
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 03:20 pm
@Sglass,
No need to be sorry, Sglass, I was picking on you amicably, as usual.

Btw, I googled Myles Connors and, yes, it is fascinating..
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Sep, 2009 06:38 pm
@Merry Andrew,
OOOH! I wish someone (in the spirit of Oliver Stone but not as insanely paranoid) would make a feature film of the heist.

Can you suggest what book is the most accurate/noteworthy history on the subject? I'm now more intrigued then ever before. The last article I read came from a seemingly respectable source, ARTnews Magazine, http://www.artnews.com/issues/article.asp?art_id=2677
Gala
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2009 12:33 pm
@Sglass,
As for not insuring the collection-- and this is an on the side comment-- I read somewhere about an owner of a Norman Rockwell painting-- it was too expensive to insure, so he sold it.

So I can imagine the bind the Gardner must be in. Considering, a Rembrandt, in my estimation, would be a bazillion times more valuable than a N. Rockwell painting.
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