In recent art world news, over 100 modern masterpieces from the art collection of Russian industrialist Sergei Shchukin will be on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in a landmark exhibition running from October 22, 2016 through February 20, 2017.  The exhibition entitled “Icons of Modern Art.  The Shchukin Collection” reunites nearly half of the 275 works that once were on display in Shchukin’s Moscow mansion, which opened as a museum in 1908.

The collection was integrated into the State Museum of Modern Western Art after nationalization by the Bolsheviks in 1918.  Stalin ultimately shut down the museum as “ideologically inadequate” in the mid-20th century and considered Shchukin’s art collection “bourgeois”.  The industrialist’s works were eventually divided between the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, where they languished in storage rooms for decades until the 1970s.

Shchukin’s desire for then-radical works by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso was said to have rivaled that of the Stein family.  The industrialist forged relationships with leading dealers and artists at the time on his frequent trips to Paris between the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

Anne Baldassari, former director of the Musée Picasso in Paris and organizer of the exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, says that the Shchukin collection is “one of the great pioneering collections that has never received a comprehensive presentation” and “[a]ll curators working on the Modern period dream about staging a Shchukin exhibition.”

The exhibition was reported to have been made possible in part by “political will” after decades of dissension between Shchukin’s descendants and the Russian state.

“A selection of works by Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin, among others, traces the collection’s impact on the emerging Russian avant-garde.”  According to Baldassari, “[p]ictures often went from Picasso’s and Matisse’s studios to Moscow—no one had seen them in Paris.  [This was] Modern art as it was happening, when the paint was still fresh.”

To view select highlights of the exhibition, see The Modern Art Stalin Did Not Want Russians To See published online by The Art Newspaper on October 19, 2016.

In recent art world news, a painting recently sold by Sotheby’s for £8.4 million ($10.6 million) has been determined a fake causing concern that more high value forgeries exist in the art market.  In 2011, an anonymous buyer from the United States purchased the painting by Dutch artist Frans Hals.  Sotheby’s took back the painting after it was discovered by the auction house that the work was connected to another alleged fake.

The scandal dates back to this past March when French officials seized a 1531 painting entitled “Venus” by German artist Lucas Cranach at an exhibition in France.  That work sold for £6 million in London, but is being analyzed at the Louvre and is believed to be a fake.

An in-depth technical analysis established that the Hals painting was indeed a forgery.  Sotheby’s experts used pigmentation tests to determine that the work was “undoubtedly” a fake.  Thereafter, Sotheby’s rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full for the purchase of the fake work.

Concerns currently exist throughout the art market that there are up to 25 other fakes in it.  This could cost art investors a staggering £200 million.


The New York Times has reported that the estate of a German businessman has sued the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Friday to claim one of its valuable Picassos, “The Actor” (1904-05), alleging in the court filing that the museum does not hold title to the painting because the businessman was forced to sell the work for a low amount after fleeing the Nazis in the late 1930s.  The treasured oil on canvas depicts an attenuated male figure making hand gestures that signaled the beginning of Picasso’s interest in “the theatrical world of acrobats and saltimbanques” during the artist’s Rose Period.  The painting is estimated to be worth more than $100 million said lawyers for the estate in the court filing.

In the court filing it is alleged that the museum “did not disclose or should have known that the painting had been owned by a Jewish refugee, Paul Leffmann, who had disposed of the work only because of Nazi and Fascist persecution.”  The lawsuit alleges that the sale of the painting was made under duress to a collector of Picasso’s work and Picasso’s dealer for $13,200 in 1938.  In 1941, Thelma Chrysler Foy bought the painting through a New York art gallery for $22,500 and eventually donated it to the Met in 1952 where the painting has been continuously displayed since.  The lawyers for the estate said that they had conducted negotiations with the Met while the claim was being investigated by the museum, but the parties had never been able to reach a settlement.

In a statement, the Met “strenuously denied there were grounds for the claim, asserting that the 1938 sale had been for fair market value and had not been made under duress.”  The museum added that the German businessman and his family did not make any claim on the painting after the war when trying to reclaim property they had been forced to sell.

The lawyers for the estate have criticized the museum claiming that for a number of years it had given an “erroneous provenance” for the painting until being corrected in 2011.  The Met indicated that the provenance was not erroneous as it was based on the recollection of the buyer at the time.  The provenance reflected that the painting was owned by a German in Switzerland and was updated as further information became available, according to the museum.

The suit is Zuckerman v. Metropolitan Museum of Art, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-07665.

The New York Times has reported that two van Gogh paintings that were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002 have been recovered in Italy.

According to the article, the paintings were recovered as part of an ongoing investigation into organized crime by Italian authorities. Specifically the Italian authorities were investigating the Amato Pagano clan of the Camorra Mafia family, which is allegedly associated with international cocaine trafficking.

The works in question, “Seascape at Scheveningen” (1882) and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen” (1884/85), were apparently stolen by burglars who climbed to the roof of the museum using a ladder, and then left through side of the building using a rope.

By Daniel Schnapp

Forbes recently published an informative online piece on a new IRS Revenue Procedure that makes the use of Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) as a means for tax deferral more achievable for art and collectibles.  CRTs are generally used by those who are charitably minded and wish to sell a highly appreciated asset without having to pay a significant capital gains tax bill.

If the appreciated art is sold unconditionally by an art collector, the art collector, of course, would be responsible for income tax on the gain in the year of the sale.  However, if the appreciated art is sold by a CRT, which is typically exempt from state and federal income taxes, the gain is taxed over a period of time as distributions are made from the CRT.   In the meantime, the complete amount of sale proceeds unreduced by taxes can be reinvested by the CRT.  Moreover, in the year the art is sold by the CRT, the art collector is eligible to take a charitable deduction on his or her individual tax return in which such deduction is based on the remainder value of the CRT that is projected (based on specific IRS formulas) to be given to charity.

So exactly how does a collectibles CRT work?  Generally, art is transferred to the CRT by a collector and that art is sold by the trustee of the CRT who reinvests the proceeds in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.  As discussed above, the transfer of art to the CRT and the subsequent sale of the art will not result in a current capital gains tax bill for either the art collector or the CRT.

The CRT then makes a series of annual payments to a non-charitable beneficiary, usually the art collector who created the trust (or a family member) for his or her life or for a term of years.  The annual payments to the art collector or family member will be made from the CRT’s portfolio of assets, and the amount will vary depending on the structure of the CRT.”

This new change by the IRS is considered to have come at an “opportune time” with the Federal Reserve expected to increase interest rates later in the year as CRTs are most effective in higher interest environments.  In the meantime, art collectors may wish to consider this new IRS Revenue Procedure as we wait to see what happens with federal interest rates in the months ahead.





In recent international art world news, it has been recently reported that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has recently attributed a questioned work, “River Landscape With Figures” (1625-30), among other works, to the highly respected Dutch 17th-century artist, Hercules Segers.  The landscape painting had been attributed for many years to Segers, but it had been discredited in the 1970s by a leading Segers scholar who was uncertain of the authenticity of the work.

New research has led the Dutch national museum to conclude that the work should be attributed to Segers.  Over the past two years, the Rijksmuseum has conducted and examined technical studies on about 100 known and questioned Segers works from around the world.

Henry Pettifer, who is Head of the Old Master Paintings Department at Christie’s in London, has said that the authentication “could add value” to the work, but it is difficult to predict the amount as Seger’s works “so rarely appear at auction, and because there’s so much controversy about attribution.”

Segers is regarded as one of the Dutch Golden Age’s “most experimental and mysterious artists, who was admired by and influenced Rembrandt, among others.”

The museum will be presenting the Segers work among a number of paintings, impressions and prints in a large-scale retrospective entitled “Hercules Segers” running from October 7, 2016 to January 8, 2017.  The exhibition will then move to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where it will open on February 13, 2017 as “The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers.”

In a recent twist of a long running debate that has captured the attention of the art world for many years, a leading Degas expert believes that a long-disputed plaster of celebrated artist Edgar Degas’s “Little Dancer”, which displays the ballerina in a slightly different pose, is indeed an earlier model of Degas’s prominent 1881 sculpture La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans.

The expert is Arthur Beale, the retired Chairman of the Department of Conservation and Collections Management at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Beale now believes the controversial theory  of another art historian, Gregory Hedberg, that the plaster was created during the lifetime of Degas.  Beale’s recent endorsement of Hedberg’s theory is particularly surprising as Beale was once part of a group of other respected art historians who have long contradicted Hedberg’s view of the plaster.  The long-disputed plaster was discovered in the closet of a now defunct foundry outside Paris in 2004.  Hedberg has said that the plaster is Degas’s work or of his studio and was created prior to the artist’s death in 1917.

In general, the Degas experts believe that the plaster is a copy with a number of distinct differences in pose, posture and expression from Degas’s actual “Little Dancer” sculpture.  In parting ways with the other experts, Beale has said that the others “should take a second look” and that “there’s a good deal of evidence, of all natures—art, historical, technical, scientific and so forth—that make this a rather significant, seemingly significant piece.”

For further information on the long-disputed plaster, see “Did Degas Make This Plaster?  An Expert Now Says Yes” as published by the New York Times on September 12, 2016.

UPDATE: In follow up to our posts regarding the Peter Doig lawsuit, last month, a federal court in Illinois declared that the disputed work signed “Peter Doige 76” is not the work of famous Scottish born artist Peter Doig.  Among the many odd facts presented in this case was the glaring issue that “Doig” and “Doige” are two different names. This case demonstrates that authentication, even by the living artist himself, can prove to be a costly endeavor for all parties involved.

There may be some lessons learned from the Doig matter:

In this digital age, creating a definitive catalogue of work may be easier than ever for living artists, and artists that want to maintain control over their body of work should take advantage of innovative technologies that permit them to document their works.  The fact that the Doig matter went to trial demonstrates that the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) is not the panacea for all of the legal issues facing artists. In particular, VARA provides artists rights for disavowing damaged or modified work but does not address when the art is misattributed.

In a recent interview, Doig commented on the time and money wasted on the lawsuit.  It is not clear whether the plaintiff will appeal the court’s decision.

With the long days of summer coming to an end next month, ArtNews recently published a very informative and timely guide online as a preview of the fall season’s major exhibitions and biennials around the world that I thought would be of particular interest to our blog readers.

The ArtNews online guide includes both a national section and an international section covering the period from September through December of this year.

To access the ArtNews guide, see Fall Preview:  Museum Shows and Biennials Around the World.


Further to our post below regarding the trial over the authenticity of a painting alleged to have been made by the Scottish painter Peter Doig, some interesting notes regarding the waning days of the trial were captured by artnet.  Among them:

* The lawyers and the Judge differed as to the pronunciation of Doig’s name;

* During cross-examination, the attorney representing the plaintiffs asked whether the work in question was a painted by “Captain Butterknife.”

* The question of whether Doig was incarcerated at Thunder Bay as alleged by the plaintiffs appeared to have been left unanswered.

The final verdict is expected to be given orally in the coming weeks.

Read more here.

By Daniel Schnapp.