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Texas-based appraiser of Asian art pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court Tuesday to taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle illegal rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory to China.
Ning Qiu could spend more than two years in prison and be fined $150,000 when he is sentenced at a later date.
Authorities say Qiu admitted to helping the boss of the scheme obtain rhino horns and ivory, where they were smuggled to Hong Kong and used to make fake antiques.

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Going the extra mile to authenticate a sculpture they suspected was an original Rodin has reaped a big reward for Quinn’s Auction Galleries. On Saturday, May 17, the metro-Washington, DC company auctioned a bronze-and-marble Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) sculpture titled Le Desespoir [Despair] for $306,800, inclusive of 18% buyer’s premium. The 13¾ by 12 by 11-inch sculpture had been entered in Quinn’s Fine Art sale with a presale estimate of $60,000-$80,000.

The buyer of the artwork, whose name has not been released, is a collector from Germany who bid over the phone.

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A federal judge will settle an ownership dispute over a Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) painting that was purchased at a flea market in West Virginia for $7. The FBI is currently holding the painting until the argument is settled.

Marcia “Martha” Fuqua claims to have purchased the painting in 2009 and subsequently stored it in a trash bag until she had the work authenticated two years later. After learning that the painting was an authentic Renoir, Fuqua planned to sell the work at auction; it was expected to garner around $75,000. However, Fuqua’s plan was foiled when documents from the Baltimore Museum of Art surfaced, revealing that the painting had been stolen in 1951. It was later determined that an insurer, the Fireman’s Fund, paid a $2,500 claim on the theft; the insurer is now battling Fuqua for ownership of the painting.

Paysage bords de Seine (1879) is believed to have been painted by Renoir on the spot for his mistress. An appraiser hired by the FBI estimated the painting’s worth at approximately $22,000, considerably less than Fuqua’s appraisal as concerns regarding the painting’s ownership and possible theft have lowered its value.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered Fuqua and the Fireman’s Fund to make their cases in written pleas later this month. The FBI is still investigating the case.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:26

Dispute Over Rare Gem Collection Comes to an End

Over the course of 25 years in the 1980s and 1990s, Harry Rodman, a veteran gold refiner from New York City, and Alan Bronstein, a diamond dealer from New Jersey, assembled the Aurora Pyramid of Hope Diamonds, the most comprehensive collection of colored diamonds in the world. Featuring 295 rare gems, the collection became a point of controversy after Rodman died at the age of 99 in 2008.

Last year, Rodman’s heirs hit Bronstein with a lawsuit claiming that they were entitled to Rodman’s half of the diamond collection, which one appraiser valued at $14 million. The case became more complicated as Rodman, who made several wills in the last ten years of his life, was not only Bronstein’s partner, but also his stepfather. The legal dispute recently came to a close when Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee L. Holzman ruled that Bronstein fairly bought out Rodman’s interest in the Aurora Pyramid collection as well as another well-known grouping of diamonds known as the Aurora Butterfly of Peace.  

The Aurora Pyramid of Hope, which is currently on loan to London’s Natural History Museum, has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Bronstein plans to keep exhibiting the collection in museums for the benefit and enjoyment of the public.

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Historian and American decorative arts expert, Wendell D. Garrett, died of natural causes on November 14 in Williston, Vermont. He was 83. Garrett was well known for his appearances as an appraiser on the PBS series, “Antiques Roadshow,” which launched in 1997. Garrett participated in every season of the program and will make a posthumous appearance on the show’s next season, which premieres January 7, 2013.

Prior to his work on “Antiques Roadshow,” Garrett served as the senior vice president in the American decorative arts department at Sotheby’s. He also wrote and edited a number of books on antiques including Victorian America: Classical Romanticism to Gilded Opulence (1993), Monticello and the Legacy of Thomas Jefferson (1994), and American Colonial: Puritan Simplicity to Georgian Grace (1995).

Born in Los Angeles in 1929, Garrett attended UCLA where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. Subsequently, Garrett enrolled at the University of Delaware and received a master’s degree in early American culture from the school’s distinguished Winterthur program. He later earned another master’s degree in American history from Harvard.

Garrett joined the Adams Papers Project at the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1959 where he served as the assistant editor of the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (1961), a four-volume set that starts with entries from 1755. Garrett is also credited with finding an even earlier Adams diary with entries beginning in 1753. The Earliest Diary of John Adams was published in 1966 with Garrett as associate editor.

Garrett’s three children, four grandchildren, and a brother survive him.

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