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Kunstmuseum Bern (Museum of Fine Arts Bern), Switzerland has agreed, today, to accept artworks from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt's 1,300 works that has been bequeathed to the museum by German collector. Christoph Schaeublin of the Bern Art Museum told a news conference in Berlin that the museum would accept parts of the artworks bequeathed by Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in May at the age of 81.

The collection has been known colloquially as the “Munich Art Trove,” and collated by Cornelius Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Gurlitt senior was one of four art dealers entrusted with selling so-called degenerate art during the Nazi regime’s rule. The collection includes a number high-value works from the period by Henri Matisse, Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, and Marc Chagall, among others. Originally estimated at the value of nearly £700 million - the value has dropped significantly as many pieces are believed to have been looted from Jewish families by the Nazis.

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Four years ago, in the French newspaper "Libération," I revealed the extraordinary discovery of a previously unknown collection of works by Pablo Picasso.

The news flashed around the world. “Never before has such an important ensemble of works—completely unknown until now—been found in private hands”, said Anne Baldassari, then the director of the Musée Picasso in Paris. The value of these works could be as high as €70m.

Now, the epilogue to the story is being played out in the French courts.

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U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Thursday signaled that he is viewing the value of the Detroit Institute of the Arts through the lens of the Detroit's future as the city works to emerge from Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Rhodes asked Annmarie Erickson, executive vice president of the museum, how valuable the museum is to the education of children, to the social enjoyment of families who visit the museum, and for southeast Michigan as a whole.

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As part of a deal with prosecutors, the man accused of smashing a vase by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in a museum here pleaded guilty Wednesday to criminal mischief but avoided any more jail time beyond the two days he spent behind bars after his arrest.

Maximo Caminero, a 51-year-old artist from the Dominican Republic, will be on probation for 18 months and serve 100 hours of community service by teaching children how to paint. Mr. Caminero also must pay restitution of $10,000, the appraised value of the vase he dropped on the floor of the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Feb. 16 in what he said was a political act.

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An artist's work is more valuable if they have a short life, a torrid romantic affair or go mad, a leading art expert has said. He suggests it would "not be a bad thing" commercially if certain painters were to die young.

Philip Hook, a senior director at Sotheby's and former Antiques Roadshow expert, said a short life made the price of a piece of art rise, avoiding the tricky "late period" of older artists.

Saying "no-one would want" British artist David Hockney to have died young, he conceded it is likely that it would have made his work more valuable.

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Back in May 2013, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles announced that it had bought Rembrandt Laughing, a 17th century self-portrait by the Dutch master, from the London-based art dealer’s Hazlitt Gooden & Fox. On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, it was revealed that Britain’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, had delayed approval of the Getty’s application for an export license until October 15, 2013, a tactic usually used to give collectors and museums enough time to collect the funds necessary to keep an artwork in the country.

In 2007, Rembrandt Laughing was put up for sale at a small auction house in England and said to be by a “follower of Rembrandt” even though a number of dealers thought it to be an authentic work by the artist. Eventually, scientific tests and studies by a leading Rembrandt scholar confirmed the attribution, causing the work’s value to skyrocket. In order to keep the painting in England past October 15, a British institution interested in buying the work will need to raise around $25.1 million, the price the Getty has agreed to pay for it.

The Getty has run into trouble exporting works out of Britain in the past. In 1994, the institution was told that they could not have Antonio Canova’s sculpture Three Graces, after raising $12 million and waiting five years.  

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George Bailey, the Chairman of Business Development at Sotheby’s London has partnered with fellow Sotheby’s employee, Lucinda Blythe, to launch an independent online auction site. The Auction Room ( specializes in “middle market” works of art that fall just under the minimum value criteria that many big name auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s enforce.

The Auction Room’s inaugural sale of Middle Eastern Contemporary Art will take place on June 24, 2013. An accompanying exhibition will held in London so that prospective buyers can view the works in person before the online sale begins. All of the lots offered will also be available for browsing two weeks before the sale on The Auction Room’s website.

The Auction Room will also specialize in the sale of jewelry, watches, silver, ceramics, and paintings. While the website is a bold new venture, Bailey will maintain his post at Sotheby’s.

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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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Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:24

Twombly Foundation Involved in Multiple Lawsuits

When the influential American painter Cy Twombly (1928-2011) passed away two years ago, he left the bulk of his artwork and millions of dollars in cash to the Cy Twombly Foundation of New York. The wealth of money and art passed from a trust to the foundation, which is devoted to protecting and promoting Twombly’s legacy. The Cy Twombly Foundation now finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in a Delaware state court.

The lawsuit claims that Thomas H. Saliba, one of the four individuals in charge of the foundation, took over $300,000 in unauthorized fees for investment services and assisted another foundation director, attorney Ralph E. Lerner, in pocketing funds. The claim was filed by Nicola Del Roscia, Twombly’s companion and the foundation’s president, and Julie Sylvester, a curator, Twombly expert, and the foundation’s vice president. Roscia and Sylvester also assert that Lerner and Saliba inflated the value of Twombly’s works in order to pad commissions for their own financial gain. Lerner and Saliba have refused to disclose their trustee commissions, making it impossible to determine the extent of their wrongdoing.

The recent lawsuit comes a month after Lerner asked the same Delaware court to appoint Twombly’s son, Alessandro, as a fifth board member in order to break the stalemate over the dispute. Roscia and Sylvester stated in recent court filings that Lerner’s request was an attempt to outmaneuver them. Roscia and Sylvester claim that Lerner hoped to bring Alessandro, the third trustee of Twombly’s trust, on board to help cover up Saliba’s wrongdoing.

While Twombly is a powerful force in the art market, highly inflating the prices of his work could prove dangerous for the foundation by creating confusion about the true value of his art and in turn destabilizing the Twombly market.

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A significant painting by Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the English-born American artist who founded the Hudson River School, will be sold to benefit the Seward House Museum in Auburn, New York. Portage Falls on the Genesee (1839) was given to the American politician William H. Seward (1801-1972) while he was the governor of New York prior to the Civil War. Seward went on to serve as Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.

The painting, which depicts what is now Letchworth State Park in western New York, has been a part of the Seward Museum’s collection for decades. Seward’s home and contents were donated to the Fred L. Emerson Foundation in the 1950s by Seward’s grandson, William Henry Seward III. The Seward House opened to the public in 1955 and became a registered National Historic Landmark in 1964. The museum became a fully independent, not-for-profit museum in 2009 and the Cole painting was retained by the foundation.

The recent discovery of the painting’s value and the subsequent need for greater security prompted officials to put the work up for sale. Funds from the sale will be split between the Emerson Foundation and the Seward House Museum. The museum plans to use its portion of the proceeds to further its preservation mission. Portage Falls on the Genesee is being kept in a secure storage location until the sale is official.  

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