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.”

The Wall Street Journal recently published an in-depth story on the Goulandris art collection, which is currently in the middle of one of the largest and most complex legal disputes over ownership of art in Europe.

The story involves a private art collection valued as much as $3 billion that has been mostly out of public view over the past two decades, an offshore company used by a secret seller to put up artwork for auction, and a dispute that essentially boils down to a non-existent will and an inscrutable one.

The late Greek shipping mogul Basil Goulandris and his late wife, Elise, amassed one of the world’s most significant private art collections, which included several hundred pieces of treasures by a number of renowned artists such as Picasso, van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Degas, Pollock, and Balthus.

For further information on this intriguing saga involving the Goulandris art collection, visit The $3 Billion Family Art Feud.

In recent art world news is a story about a treasured 1918 oil painting by Amedeo Modigliani of a seated chocolate merchant in a hat and tie holding a cane (“Seated Man with a Cane”).  Art dealer and billionaire David Nahmad is principal of the Nahmad holding company (International Art Center) that purchased the work at auction in 1996 and has owned it since then.

The grandson of a Jewish antiques dealer, however, claims that the Modigliani painting is the same work that was stolen from his relative’s shop in Paris during the Nazi occupation and sold off over 70 years ago.

For nearly five years, the grandson, Philippe Maestracci, and the Mondex Corporation, a company specializing in the recovery of looted art on behalf of beneficiaries, have pursued a claim in New York state and federal courts for the work, which was once estimated to be valued at around $25 million.

Nahmad, a scion of a family of international art dealers, remains determined that he will not settle the case.  In support of his position, the art dealer relies on an obscure French court document dated 1947 that he asserts raises doubt as to whether his painting is the same Modigliani painting that antiques dealer, Oscar Stettiner, had tried to recover after the Second World War.  The court document, which was filed in connection with Stettiner’s claim in 1946 to recover the painting, describes the work as a “Modigliani self-portrait” and not as a painting of a chocolate merchant.

Conflicting evidence cited by Maestracci includes the provenance listing when Nahmad’s holding company attempted to sell the disputed painting through Sotheby’s in 2008.  The auction house listed Stettiner as a possible previous owner of the painting and indicated that the painting had been sold anonymously between 1940 and 1945.

Nahmad is determined to fight on in the courts, but has said if it is proven that the painting is looted art by the Nazis, he will return it.

For further information on this prolonged dispute since 2011, see Dealer’s Estate Sues Nahmad Gallery Seeking Return of Modigliani Portrait and The Art of Secrecy.

In recent art world news, it was reported that one of the world’s largest private art collections is to be housed in a new Paris museum in close proximity to the Louvre.  The art collector behind the enormous collection worth $1.4 billion is luxury goods billionaire, François Pinault, who also owns Christie’s auction house.

Pinault has amassed a vast collection of modern art work from various internationally renowned artists such as Mark Rothko and Damien Hirst.  The collection is presently displayed at Pinault’s private museums (i.e., Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, and the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi) in Venice.  For decades up until now, the collector had been unable to locate a suitable home for his collection in Paris.

The new museum is near the Pompidou Centre, which is home to Europe’s largest contemporary art collection.

French businessman and France’s wealthiest man, Bernard Arnault, opened his own Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation museum for his art collection in October 2014.  With Arnault’s museum opening and the recent announcement of Pinault’s new museum, the City of Light is transforming into an emerging contemporary art center.

Pinault’s new museum is expected to open in 2018 and will work in tandem with the collector’s other cultural institutions in Venice.


The New York Times recently reported on an intriguing story in which a long-lost painting by Caravaggio was discovered in an attic of a French family who had lived in their home for many generations.  The painting of “Judith Beheading Holofernes” was found by the owner of a house near Toulouse while investigating a water leak behind a locked door in the family’s attic.

Earlier this month French art dealer Eric Turquin presented the painting at his art gallery in Paris, where it will remain until there is a buyer of the work, which is estimated to be worth in excess of 120 million euros or $136 million.  After two years of research, Turquin declared that the painting was an authentic work by the Italian Renaissance master, Caravaggio.

The art work is thought to have been created in Rome around 1604 to 1605 by Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio.  Caravaggio is revered as one of the most revolutionary figures of European Art.

The attribution of the work to Carravaggio has caused a rift of sorts in the art world as some experts have publicly disputed the finding.  On the one hand, Nicola Spinosa, former director of the Capodimonte Museum in Naples and a Caravaggio expert, has public supported the authenticity of the painting in a written evaluation for Turquin.  In particular, Spinosa wrote that the decisive style of the painting “allows us to identify this as an original Caravaggio that we thought was lost until now.”  On the other hand, Mina Gregori, a Caravaggio expert, believes that the painting is a copy by Flemish artist Louis Finson.

While some of the research on the painting had been conducted at the Louvre, the museum has not reached a definitive conclusion on whether the painting is an authentic Caravaggio.  However, experts there requested that a government commission on national treasures grant the painting protected status so that further research can be conducted.  Last month the French Culture Ministry prohibited the export of the painting abroad for 30 months.

In the meantime, the art world will certainly be awaiting to hear whether the Louvre has reached a determination on the authenticity of this apparent long-lost art treasure.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the irrevocable trust, a common estate-planning tool, is increasingly being used by art owners as a tax-savings measure.

Here’s the gist.  An art owner gifts ownership of his or her painting or art collection to an irrevocable trust.  The painting is no longer part of the art owner’s estate, and so the value of the estate is reduced for tax purposes.

In addition, the painting is appraised at the time of the gift.  The amount of the appraised value above the $14,000 annual exemption from gift taxes will be deducted from the art owner’s lifetime combined federal gift-tax and estate-tax exemption (currently $5.45 million).   If that exemption has already been used up, the art owner will pay tax on the gift – however, this tax liability will likely be less than if the art owner keeps the painting in the estate.

Read more here.

An intriguing story recently ran in the International New York Times in which it was reported that a drawing known as “La Bella Principessa” owned by Canadian art collector Peter Silverman and purchased for around $20,000 in 2007 may or may not be an authentic long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci potentially worth up to $150 million.

The art world controversy surrounding the drawing involves a newly developed twist with Shaun Greenhalgh, the infamous British art forger who is “thought to have created fakes that spanned centuries of art history”, now declaring it to be his work.

Greenhalgh was sentenced to over four and a half years in prison on forgery-related charges back in 2007 and was responsible for a number of “well-documented fakes”, such as a Guaguin sculpture of a faun purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago and an Egyptian alabaster sculpture of a princess purchased by the Bolton Museum.

The story of “La Bella Principessa” and its attribution began in January 1998 when New York art dealer Kate Ganz purchased a “head-and-shoulders study of an aristocratic young woman”, viewed in profile and dressed in the Italian Renaissance style, for nearly $22,000 (with fees) at Christie’s in New York.  The drawing was created in pen, ink, chalk and watercolor on vellum, and was cataloged by Christie’s as “early 19th century, possibly German.”

In January 2007, Ganz sold the drawing described as “based on a number of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and may have been made by a German artist studying in Italy” to current owner Silverman for the above original purchase price (less a dealer’s discount).

In June 2008, a company in Paris specializing in digital scanning, Lumiere Technology, announced that its analysis of the drawing had determined that the work was by da Vinci.  Thereafter, the work was valued at £100 million by London art dealer Dickinson, who offered the drawing for purchase to select clients.

In October 2009, a Dickinson adviser declared the work an authentic da Vinci in an article published in The Times of London.  In addition, the attribution has been endorsed by at least six da Vinci scholars.

As an authentic da Vinci, the drawing has yet to win over the art world.  Notably, the work has not been exhibited in any major art museum and it was excluded from the landmark exhibition entitled “Leonardo da Vinci:  Painter at the Court of Milan” at the National Gallery in London running from November 2011 to February 2012.

Most recently as of last week, Kasia Pisarek, an independent art historian specializing in attribution, was the latest scholar to make a case that “La Bella Principessa” is not a da Vinci.  In her paper presented at a London conference, Pisarek went through a checklist of apparent “inconsistencies”—i.e., lack of any documentation or copies, presence of just three stitch-holes in the side of the vellum sheet, and anatomically incorrect quality of the drawing itself.  Pisarek concluded that “the present attribution to [da Vinci] must be deemed unreliable.”

As for the current whereabouts of the controversial drawing, it is being held at the Geneva Freeport storage warehouse and is not currently available for purchase, according to Silverman, who mentioned that he had been offered $60 million for the drawing in 2012 but had turned down the offer.  Silverman said that he would like “the drawing to be shown all over the world so that people can decide for themselves.”

Depending on which account one believes, it can be summed up that “La Bella Principessa” is either an authentic da Vinci worth in the multi-millions; a 19th-century Italian Renaissance style drawing worth in the tens of thousands; or a modern era fake worth barely anything.





Inc. Magazine suggests there is.

Earlier this year, Sotheby’s and Christie’s had record art sales, each selling $1 billion worth of paintings and sculptures over the course of a week.  Now art sales are in decline, as demonstrated by Sotheby’s recent struggle to meet its minimum sales level of $375 million during its old master and modernist auctions.

“While the rarefied art world may seem like it’s worlds away from the concerns of your own company, you probably want to pay attention. Not only may the paintings and sculpture you bought now fetch less money, but your own company’s value may soon slide as well.”

Inc. identifies a “tenuous” link between art sales and stock market performance, and suggests that the “hype cycle” that has increased valuations for everything from technology startups to modernist paintings is coming to an end.

Entrepreneurs are warned that this may be a sign take a more sober approach to their businesses, as the “changing winds of the art market may further signal a retrenchment in the economy.”

“The big lesson is that you shouldn’t let over-inflated valuation expectations interfere with your exit plans, which could include a sale or plans to go public.”

Read the article here.

As reported by the International New York Times, a painting of a reclining nude woman entitled “Nu Couché” (1917-18) by early-20th-century Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani sold for $170.4 million with fees this past Monday evening at Christie’s well attended “Artist’s Muse” themed auction in New York.  The buyer is businessman Liu Yiqian, who is among China’s most well-known billionaire art collectors.  The painting sold in nine tense minutes with six people bidding to win the desirable lot.  It was the second most expensive art work ever sold at auction.

Modigliani’s painting was the star lot around Christie’s Monday evening auction, which was designed to attract international buyers of the world’s highest priced art.  Modigliani nudes are regarded as “among the ultimate trophy paintings of the 20th century.”

It was reported that Monday evening’s sale of “Nu Couché” propelled “Modigliani into the $100 Million at Auction Club, whose members include Picasso (three times), Bacon, Giacometti (three times), Warhol and Munch.”

The seller of the Modigliani painting was guaranteed at least a $100 million minimum price.  Monday evening’s sale of 34 lots at Christie’s fetched an impressive $491.4 million.

On November 10, 2015, Christie’s will sell Louise BourgeoisSpider (1997) at the auction house’s Post-War and Contemporary Sale to be held in New York City.  It has been reported that the sculpture will have an estimate of $25 million to $35 million, which could lead to an even higher hammer price.  As a result, Bourgeois may become the top-selling female artist of all time.

Bourgeois was a French born artist who immigrated to America in 1938.  She is famous for her dramatic oversized sculptural work.  Her spider series was a tribute to her mother.  According to reports, Bourgeois has said “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

Last year around this time, Georgia O’Keeffe became the highest-selling woman in art as a result of the $44.4 million sale of O’Keeffe’s 1932, Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1.  According to reports, this O’Keeffe painting was on display in George W. Bush’s private dining room at the White House when he was in office.  The painting was placed for auction by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico to benefit its acquisitions fund.

The top selling living female artist is Cady Noland for her screen-print Bluewald (1989), which sold this past May for nearly $9.8 million at Christie’s New York.

It will be interesting to see if Bourgeois’ Spider can oust O’Keeffe’s record. It would be even better if more living artists (particularly women artists) could enjoy fame and high art prices during their careers.