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Thursday, 21 February 2013 12:44

Arrest Made in Dalí Heist

Phivos Istavrioglou, a resident of Athens, Greece, has been arrested in connection to the botched theft of a Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) painting from a New York gallery last June. Security cameras captured Istavrioglou as he made off with the watercolor and ink work, which is valued at approximately $150,000. After surveillance images were released to the public, a panicked Istavrioglou mailed the Dalí painting back to the Upper East Side gallery in a cardboard tube.

 Fingerprints left on the returned painting helped officials track down Istavrioglou, 29, and he was arrested on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at John F. Kennedy airport in a sting that lured him to the United States from Italy. After his arrest, Istavrioglou appeared briefly in a Manhattan court where he pleaded not guilty to grand larceny in the second degree. Istavrioglou’s bail was set at $100,000.

 The stolen painting, Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio (1949), was on view at the Venus Over Manhattan gallery as part of its inaugural exhibition, which opened in May 2012.

Published in News
Thursday, 23 June 2011 04:23

China frees artist Ai Weiwei on bail

Reporting from Beijing— After languishing for more than two months in prison without formal charges, China's most famous dissident artist was abruptly released on bail late Wednesday.

The official New China News Agency reported that Ai had been freed "because of his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from."

The 54-year-old artist is reported to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure, although he was not known to be seriously ill. More likely the release was a belated response by Chinese authorities to the international reproach that followed Ai's arrest April 3 at the Beijing airport.

But it appeared that he would not be able to pursue the biting criticism of the Chinese Communist Party that had permeated his artwork and writing.

"I'm not allowed to talk. I'm on probation," he said apologetically to reporters and supporters who greeted him about midnight as he returned to his studio in northeastern Beijing.

Dressed casually in a gray T-shirt and appearing in good health, he said his future plans were to "enjoy life."

"Everybody should enjoy life. I can't say anything,'' he said before disappearing behind the gates to the studio.

Though dozens of others have been arrested over the last six months in a crackdown on activists, it was Ai — by dint of his stature in the art world — who inspired petitions and demonstrations across the world. In London, the Tate Modern gallery installed large black letters across its facade reading, "Free Ai Weiwei." In New York, a Cuban artist used a slide projector at night to cast the artist's face onto the Chinese Consulate.

Ai had not been formally charged, although the state media reported that his company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., had evaded "huge amounts" of taxes. The New China News Agency quoted police as saying that "the decision [to release Ai] comes also in consideration of the fact that Ai has repeatedly said he is willing to pay the taxes he evaded."

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