After a 14-minute bidding war, Claude Monet’s 1891 painting “Meule” sold for a record $81.4 million.  “Meule” was among the offerings at Christie’s Impressionist and modern art auction held on Wednesday evening, which brought in a total of $246.3 million.

According to a Bloomberg report, Christie’s also set an auction record for Wassily Kandinsky whose 1935 abstract composition “Rigide et courbe” fetched $23.3 million.

Christie’s successful auction comes after dampened expectations for this week—Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips are targeting at least $1 billion in sales during this week’s auctions in New York, down 49 percent from a year ago.

Read the Bloomberg report here.

The New York Times recently reported that gallery owners and collectors alike are recognizing the link between the art market and museum exhibitions.  According to one art consultant:  “A museum show can be very influential for an artist.  It changes the price point, the popularity, the awareness a person has for an artist.”

For current owners, loaning artworks to a museum may increase its value, but is not without its risks—including potential damage, seizure and insurance issues.  And, for those looking to collect, buying artworks based solely on the fact that it has been exhibited in a museum may too just be a gamble.

Read the full story here.

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.

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.