Fire at Walnut Studios leaves dozens of Toronto artists devastated


Fire at Walnut Studios leaves dozens of Toronto artists devastated

Thousands of dollars worth of art destroyed as shared studio space goes up in flames

Dozens of Toronto artists have lost thousands of dollars of artwork after an early morning weekend fire severely damaged a west end studio, but they are hoping to find a temporary space in which to regroup. ( Christopher Mulligan/CBC)

Dozens of Toronto artists have lost thousands of dollars worth of work after a weekend fire gutted a well-known west end studio.

Ilene Sova, the artistic director of Walnut Studios, says she sobbed when she heard the news about the fire, which broke out early on Saturday. The studios, located in a large warehouse at 83 Walnut Ave. that was once a canning factory, were home to a “family” of some 45 artists, Sova said.

“I’m inconsolable,” Sova told CBC Toronto on Monday.

“For me, it was just horrifying to think about these artists and what they have lost, the amount of hours, the amount of work, the materials, their equipment. How do you replace that?”

Nobody was injured in the blaze, and Toronto Fire says there’s no evidence to suggest it was suspicious. The affected artists are now looking for a new space to work.

“For the past few days, what we’ve been trying to do mentally is really focus on the fact that it happened at a time when no one was in the building, which is very lucky,” Sova said.

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This artwork by Jamie Macrae was destroyed in the fire. (Jamie Macrae )

Painters, sculptors, fashion designers, jewelry makers, photographers and installation artists used the building, which had two main studios connected by a hallway and loft space. The studios are also home to Blank Canvases, an in-school arts program in which artists teach Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board students, and smoke severely damaged its office space, Sova said.

Some artists had between 20 and 30 artworks still in the space, many of which were damaged. Many art supplies, pieces of equipment and the workspaces themselves were also badly damaged.

Sova said she can’t put a dollar figure on what went up in flames, but the artists have launched a GoFundMe campaign so they can keep making art.

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Here is a view of damage from inside the building. (Facebook)

She said many artists had been storing artwork there in preparation for numerous upcoming events, including the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Riverdale Art Walk, and Queen West Art Crawl.

“They were building a huge body of work in their spaces and it was all destroyed,” she added.

More than 50 firefighters needed to tame the blaze

Sova said Jason Martins, the building owner who lives near the studios, told her he woke to the smell of smoke. Martins called 911, but by the time fire crews arrived they had to go through the roof to tackle the blaze.

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A few windows were knocked out by the fire. Toronto firefighters were called to the scene at 6: 21 a.m. on Saturday. They arrived two minutes later and the fire was brought under control by 8: 20 a.m. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC)

Firefighters were called to the scene at 6:21 a.m. by a report of smoke coming from front windows, according to Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell. Firefighters arrived two minutes later and part of the one-story building was already engulfed in flames.

“When we got there, there was thick yellow smoke at the corner of King and Niagara Streets,” he said on Monday.

The majority of the fire was quickly knocked down and it was brought under control by 8:20 a.m., but firefighters remained on the scene until nearly 3 p.m. to monitor hotspots.

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Fire, smoke, and water damaged artwork, art supplies, equipment and workspaces in the building. (Facebook)

About 50 to 60 firefighters worked on the fire with the help of about 15 trucks. The cause is not known, and investigators are trying to determine where exactly it began and how it started.

“There was extensive smoke damage and considerable fire damage to a portion of the building,” Powell said.

Community helping out

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These artists are affected by the Walnut Studios fire. Left to right, Ursula McDonnell, portrait and abstract painter; Johana Cordero, textile and fashion designer; Rob Croxford, painter; Katrina Schaman, abstract landscape artist; and Kristyn Watterworth, painter. (Jasmin Seputis/CBC)

Sova says there’s been an outpouring of support from Toronto’s arts community.

Coun. Mike Layton has been trying to find new temporary spaces for the group to keep the community together, she said, while a schedule will be created to allow the artists back into the building when possible to retrieve belongings.

“Throughout the day, we were just managing the crisis in terms of communicating with the artists, letting them know what was going on and figuring out what our next steps are,” Sova said.

Walnut Studios@WalnutStudios

“We’re feeling really positive and comforted by the community and the city of Toronto that has kind of gathered around us in the past 24 hours,” she said.

“It’s really touched us and made us feel like we can come out of this and not be so desolate, that we have resources, and the broader Toronto family is going to help us kind of rise like a Phoenix out of the ashes.”

Arts Center’s former director issued special deal


Arts Center’s former director issued special deal

Tatiana Flowers – May 21, 2018
Christina Brusig
The former executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts was issued a restorative justice agreement contract last month, a commitment that gives an accused person the option to perform various tasks like community service and paying fines, instead of going to trial or entering a plea deal.

According to Garfield County Court documents, Christina Brusig, who had pleaded not guilty last December to misdemeanor theft charges, is ordered to write letters of apology to the community and to those harmed by the closing of the arts center.

She must also complete 50 hours of community service, and pay a $2,000 fine to the 9th District Attorney, to be handed over to the Glenwood Springs Arts Council, according to the agreement.

The document says she will communicate with her family once a week to repair harm to them, adding that she has since moved to Wyoming to receive counseling and repair any personal damage.

Deputy District Attorney Jill Edinger said that the idea of a restorative justice agreement is to give an accused person the opportunity to rebuild ties to their community, adding that she, a district attorney, and a host of people harmed by the crime were responsible in crafting the list of responsibilities.

The document lists reverberations of the crime as: destruction of the arts council, which has served the community for more than 35 years, loss of the Center for the Arts building, loss of employment for staff and teachers, and the unquantifiable impact on hundreds of students, whose classes were interrupted or terminated as a result of the closure of the center.

According to the contract, Brusig must check in with a facilitator at the DA’s office once a week to note her progress.

She’s scheduled to reappear in court on July 30 for a status conference, which will determine her compliance.

If all tasks are not completed by Aug. 31, the case will go to trial.

A two-day trial had been scheduled for the end of last week but was canceled in lieu of the restorative justice agreement.

The 31-year-old Brusig was charged in November 2017 with misdemeanor theft, after months of investigation into the arts organization’s finances.

The statute defines Class 1 misdemeanor theft as theft of between $750 and $2,000, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

According to documents in the case, in January 2017, the center’s board confronted Brusig with concerns about mismanagement of the nonprofit’s finances.

Eventually, the board told her that she could either resign or be terminated, according to Kate McRaith, the former art center board president.

McRaith said last August that Brusig had consistently presented a positive picture of the organization’s finances. But after her departure in early April, the board started finding hard numbers on the art center’s debt and unpaid bills.

The city of Glenwood Springs, which partially funded the Center for the Arts, paid the executive director’s salary, and leased the former city hydroelectric building to the organization, had its own concerns and launched a police investigation.

The arts board said in late April that the operation owed $68,000, but had only $5,000 in assets.

The books were in disarray, and the art center couldn’t pay its teachers. The city soon announced it was pulling its $50,000 annual funding for the arts center. The nonprofit began negotiating with the city to try to remain intact.

An audit completed in June found $4,789 in “likely unauthorized” expenses, another $5,937 in expenses that may have been unauthorized, and $9,455 worth of payroll and other reimbursements to Brusig that auditors said required further explanation.

Brusig told the Post Independent at the time that all the expenses detailed in the auditor’s report had been approved by the board.

The city ended up agreeing to pay art center teachers more than $20,000 after they’d gone for months without pay. That agreement, however, required the art center to end its contract with the city and vacate the building.

In an unrelated matter, Brusig pleaded guilty last April to felony check fraud in Eagle County District Court, in exchange for a deferred sentence. She had been charged with check fraud earlier that year, after her landlord, who resided in Eagle County, reported that she had written about $18,000 in bad checks after going about nine months without paying rent.

In that case, if she successfully completes two years’ probation for the deferred sentence and paid restitution in that time period, her guilty plea would be withdrawn and the case dismissed, prosecutors said.

It is unclear what will happen with that previous charge in light of the additional theft case.

The Glenwood Arts Council has since reorganized and has been working to regroup with new program offerings. The city has also taken over some art classes through its recreation programming, and the Summer of Music has reorganized as its own separate entity.

Girl, 17, plotted grenade attack on British Museum, court told


Girl, 17, plotted grenade attack on British Museum, court told

Safaa Boular allegedly began to plan terrorist attack after her Isis militant fiance was killed in Syria


A teenage girl plotted to launch a gun and grenade attack on the British Museum after her attempts to become a jihadi bride were thwarted, a court heard.

Safaa Boular was 17 when she allegedly decided to become a “martyr” after her fiance, an Islamic State militant was killed in Syria.

She was so determined to attack London that she enlisted the help of her older sister after she was charged with planning to go to Syria, the Old Bailey heard on Thursday.

Rizlaine Boular, 21, had already admitted planning an attack in Westminster, that was allegedly to involve knives, with the alleged help of their mother, Mina Dich, 43, the jury was told.

Duncan Atkinson QC, prosecuting, told how Safaa Boular’s alleged plotting followed a failed attempt to marry the Isis member Naweed Hussain.

The couple declared their love for each other in August 2016, after three months of chatting on social media, the court heard.

Atkinson told jurors Boular wanted to join Hussain in Syria where they would carry out an attack. He said: “Their plan then was that together they would, as Hussain put it, depart the world holding hands and taking others with them in an act of terrorism.”

The court heard Rizlaine Boular had also tried to go to Syria two years before.

After Safaa Boular’s plan was uncovered, she allegedly switched her attention to Britain, keeping contact with Hussain through the encrypted messaging service Telegram.

The security services deployed specially trained officers to engage in online communication with them, jurors heard.

Atkinson said: “It was clear that Hussain had been planning an act of terrorism with Safaa Boular in which she could engage if she remained in this country. Both Hussain and Safaa Boular talked of a planned ambush involving grenades and/or firearms.”

She also told an officer posing as an Isis militant that all she needed was a “car and a knife to get what I want to achieve”, the court heard.

Atkinson said: “Based on her preparation and discussion, it appears she planned to launch an attack against members of the public selected largely at random in the environs of that cultural jewel and most popular of tourist attractions, the British Museum in central London.”

An attack would have caused at least widespread panic and was intended to cause injury and death, the court was told.

When she learned Hussain had been killed in April 2017, Boular’s determination was strengthened, the court heard. She was allegedly encouraged by her mother and sister to become a “martyr”.

But within days, she was charged with planning to go to Syria and was unable to carry out her “chilling intentions”, Atkinson told the court.

He said: “However, that those intentions were not just chilling but sincere and determined is demonstrated by the fact that she did not abandon them even when she was unable to put them into effect herself. Rather, she sought to encourage her sister Rizlaine to carry the torch forward in her stead.”

Atkinson told jurors that Rizlaine Boular, of Clerkenwell, central London, had admitted preparing acts of terrorism, which was apparently to be a knife attack in Westminster.

Safaa Boular, now 18, who lived at home with her mother in Vauxhall, south-west London, denies two counts of preparing acts of terrorism.

The trial continues.

Kraemer brothers among six charged over allegedly fake Louis XIV furniture


Kraemer brothers among six charged over allegedly fake Louis XIV furniture

Laurent and Olivier Kraemer charged with organized fraud and money laundering in an ongoing investigation over so-called “fake Boulles”

VINCENT NOCE – May 21, 2018


Olivier (left) and Laurent Kraemer have been charged in an ongoing investigation into allegedly fake Louis XIV furniture Jean-Daniel Lorieux/Kraemer Gallery

Laurent and Olivier Kraemer, of Paris’s venerable Kraemer Gallery, are among a group of six dealers, experts and cabinet makers that have been charged with organized fraud and money laundering in a French court. The indictments—announced in January but only recently reported—mark the culmination of a multi-year investigation into allegedly fake Louis XIV furniture.

Others charged include Jacques Poisson a retired cabinetmaker, and his wife Colette; Michel Rocaboy, a cabinetmaker who was the Poissons’ sub-contractor, and Roland de l’Espée, a dealer and the former president of the French Friends of Versailles Society. All proclaim their innocence.

In 2016, the French art crime unit (OCBC) started an investigation into a rash of scandals that have rocked the antiques trade. The same year, Laurent Kraemer was charged in a separate criminal investigation regarding a series of fake chairs, most of which were sold to Versailles. Bill Pallot, a specialist in seated furniture at Didier Aaron & Cie (now run by Hervé Aaron), admitted fabricating around ten of them with Bruno Desnoues, a cabinetmaker employed by the château. Both spent four months in jail awaiting trial— a date has still not been fixed. In 2016, Aaron’s gallery was expelled from the Biennale des Antiquaires, and the Kraemers withdrew.

The new criminal proceedings involving the Poissons’ workshop centers on around 20 suspect pieces offered for sale or sold to collectors in London, Monaco, and New York. One of the civil parties, a Monaco-based Italian collector, has also begun a civil court action against the Kraemer Gallery over 13 pieces of Louis XIV and Louis XV furniture and objets d’art, purchased for €13.5m.

On 9 January, the Kraemer brothers were taken into police custody for two days, then charged by the judge overseeing the criminal investigation. They were later released on a bail of €4.5m and €1m respectively.

On 24 January, Roland de l’Espée was indicted for attempting to sell, for around €10m, a commode attributed to Alexandre Jean Oppenordt, and supposedly commissioned by the brother of Colbert, Louis XIV’s prime minister. The criminal investigation opened on 19 December 2016 and led to the discovery of more suspect pieces, including a pair of Boulle cabinets, sold by the Kraemer Gallery in 1999 to Axa for an estimated €6m.

Jacques Poisson’s daughter, Marie-Helene, denies any involvement by her family and says they “had never sold furniture” and “never had the means” to make such pieces. She says her father is not well enough to answer any questions.

Laurent Kraemer denounces “a judicial and media storm in a teacup, based on only one analysis”, which he contests. “There has been no judicial expertise for this investigation”, he says. The gallery says the case is a “settling of accounts” among dealers and suggests that the criminal procedure is essentially a financial matter. Payments of millions of euros led police to bank accounts in Switzerland and Singapore and off-shore companies. Also dismissing the suspicions of money laundering, the family claims to be the victim of a campaign aimed at undermining its reputation.

Seven Priceless Historical Artifacts Destroyed by Humansry


Seven Priceless Historical Artifacts Destroyed by Humans

Vandals, terrorists, and people just making dumb decisions all affected the way we see history

Rebecca Gibian – May 19, 2018

All around the world, historical artifacts teach us about our past. But sometimes, on purpose or by accident, those relics are destroyed. We take a look at some of the most important treasures that were cut, toppled or hammered.

The Star-Spangled Banner Flag


The Star-Spangled Banner flag, which was cut up and given away


One of the most treasured possessions of the Smithsonian Museum is the Star-Spangled Banner, which was one of the very first American flags to be made during the Revolutionary War. It was made with 15 stars, but now you will only find 14. After the war, Lt. Col. George Armistead took the huge 30-foot-by-42-foot flag home as a keepsake. When he and his wife died, it was passed down to their daughter, Georgiana Armistead. People asked her for fragments of the flag, so she cut it up with scissors and mailed it to whoever she thought was worthy. More than 200 square feet of the flag was removed before Smithsonian conservationists got to it in 1907.

Jewelry Heist


A glittering array of evidence appears before the court-martial board in Frankfurt, Germany, where the three officers were tried in 1946. (National Archives)


For centuries, soldiers have helped themselves to the riches of their foes. In World War II, three U.S. Army officers pulled off one of the most lucrative wartime thefts in history. In October 1944, princes Wolfgang and Richard of Germany’s illustrious House of Hesse buried about $2.5 million (about $31 million today) worth of treasure. But then Frankfurt fell to U.S. forces and the Hesse family was moved into cottages outside the Kronberg Castle. Three officers found the stash and pried out all the precious stones and kept the gold and silver mountings as scrap. They mailed the loot back to the U.S. and then pawned some of the smaller pieces in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. They were caught, and court-martialed on charges of larceny, dereliction of duty, and “conduct unbecoming U.S. military officers.” All three served time in federal prison. More than half the jewels they stole are still lost.

8,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Artworks


One of the destroyed handprints. (Courtesy of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center)



Another destroyed stencil scratched out with a rock. (Courtesy of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center)


In Tasmania’s Nirmena Nala rock shelter, you will find a preserved set of stenciled handprints made by the ancestors of Australia’s Aboriginal people. The handprints withstood the test of time, but vandals destroyed them in mere minutes. Someone went into the shelters and scratched away the images with a rock to try and deface them.

Ancient Pyramid in Belize


A backhoe in Belize destroyed one of the country’s largest Maya pyramids.


Belize has extensive Maya ruins, but a construction company destroyed one of the largest. The company was scooping stone out of the major pyramid at the site of Nohmul, one of only 15 ancient Maya sites important enough to be noted on the National Geographic World Atlas. Almost the entire pyramid, once over 60 feet tall, was destroyed by road building crews.

Looters Destroy Mummies


Mideast Egypt Protest Antiquities
In this photo taken early Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, and made available Monday, Jan. 31, parts of unidentified mummies are seen damaged on the floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. Early Saturday morning, looters entered from the glass dome on the roof of the museum with ropes with the intention to loot antiquities. (AP Photo)


On Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, looters entered the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt with the hope of finding gold. The nine men broke into ten cases to take figurines. But none of them contained gold, so the looters dropped them and broke the items. They then took two skulls fo the 2,000-year-old mummies and fled. Several of the looters were detained but many irreplaceable artifacts were destroyed.

ISIS in Mosul


A member of the Iraqi forces inspects the damage inside the destroyed museum of Mosul on April 2, 2017, after they recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group fighters.
Iraqi forces seized the museum from IS on March 7 as they pushed into west Mosul as part of a vast offensive to oust the jihadists from the northern city. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)


Islamic State militants completely ransacked Mosul’s central museum and destroyed priceless artifacts, some of which dated back thousands of years. Some of the statues and artifacts dated back to the Assyrian and Akkadian empires. The terrorist group published a video of the destruction. In the video, an Isis representative condemns Assyrians and Akkadians as polytheists. The militants smashed the statues in the museum with hammers and pushed the remains to the ground so they shattered even more. ISIS has not just destroyed the museum, however, they have caused irreparable damage across Syria and Iraq since 2010.

The Amber Room 


The Amber Chamber, a full-size room made of Baltic amber cut into 20-odd panels of ornate baroque & rococo designs; the chamber was a gift for King Fredrick William I of Prussia to Russia’s Czar Peter the Great in the early 18th century but was stolen and hidden by Nazi Gov. of Prussia Erich Koch


The Amber Chamber, a full-size room made of Baltic amber cut into 20-odd panels of ornate baroque & rococo designs; the chamber was a gift for King Fredrick William I of Prussia to Russia’s Czar Peter the Great in the early 18th century but was stolen and hidden by Nazi Gov. of Prussia Erich Koch

The Amber Room was built for Peter the Great in 1717 and was literally a room made out of amber. It was considered to be the eighth wonder of the world. It was dismantled by Nazis in 1941, shipped to Germany and reinstalled in the Konigsberg Castle. But when the war was over, it was dismantled and never seen again. Recently, documents revealed that it was in the Knights’ Hall at Konigsberg Castle when it was burned down by Soviet soldiers.


Common art exhibition rules and why you should obey them


Common art exhibition rules and why you should obey them

THE JAKARTA POST  May 19, 2018
Dots Obsession (2009) by Yayoi Kusama (Illustration) (JP/File)

Keep your hands off the artworks

Unless it’s an interactive art exhibition where you can touch and feel the artwork, you had better keep your hands off the artist’s work. Several art galleries don’t apply a borderline between the artworks and visitors, but this does not mean visitors can touch the artworks. Moisture and bacteria from your fingers could ruin the artwork.

Leave your selfie stick at home

Major art galleries and exhibitions around the world don’t allow their visitors to bring selfie sticks. While it is tempting to take selfies with famous artworks, refrain from using selfie sticks as it may damage the artworks and disturb other visitors.

No flash 

The flash from your camera is strictly banned in art exhibitions. Overexposure of lights may damage artworks as it may change their colors.

Be considerate of others when taking photos

Taking selfies is allowed in museums, however, don’t hog an artwork as a background for your selfie for a long time. Be aware that there are other people who also want to enjoy the artwork. Several museums have even set a time limit for those who want to take a picture with an artwork.

No professional camera allowed

Some art exhibitions ban visitors from taking pictures using professional cameras, especially in painting exhibitions as this puts the artworks at risk of being duplicated.

No food and drinks in the art space

Bringing food and drinks into the exhibition space will disturb others, and will also put the artworks at risk. Have a nice meal before you go to an art exhibition, and enjoy the artworks comfortably afterward.

Take note of age limitations

Some art exhibitions have strict age restrictions, with security and comfort in mind. Be considerate to other visitors by complying with this rule.

Artworks are not only for selfie backgrounds

Art exhibitions are held to educate the public about artworks. Each of the artworks displayed has its own story and meaning that the artist has tried to convey. Try to read the information about the artwork, observe and attempt to understand the correlation between the artwork’s form and its meaning. For those who upload photos of artworks to social media, do not forget to always credit the artists, as a form of appreciation.

How to Restore a Damaged Painting


How to Restore a Damaged Painting

Detail of Pablo Picasso’s “Le Marin,” 1943, oil on canvas. ILLUSTRATION: COURTESY OF CHRISTIE’S

Collectors who learned through news reports that a painting owned by Steve Wynn was damaged before it was to be auctioned at Christie’s evening sale of impressionist and modern art on Tuesday likely took in a collective gasp.

The painting, Pablo Picasso’s 1943 self-portrait, Le Marin (The Sailor), was examined after the accident by outside conservators who “have made recommendations for the successful restoration of the painting,” Christie’s said in a May 13 statement. Wynn withdrew Le Marin as well as Picasso’s 1964 painting, Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil, from the sale.

The two paintings, as well as a third, were intended as a “kickoff sale” for Sierra Fine Art LLC, an art business Wynn created after stepping down from Wynn Resorts in February in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.

But just how do you restore a masterpiece? And what does “successful restoration” mean? Can a work ever be restored to its original value?

Christie’s statement was optimistic on the outcome, but the answers will depend on how badly the work was damaged, where it was damaged, the quality of the restoration and, of course, the dynamics of the art market, experts say.

“Of course damage is damage, there’s a certain amount of loss of value,” says Larry Shar, president of Julius Lowy Frame and Restoring Co. in New York.

Steve Wynn reportedly sold Picasso’s Le Reve for US$155 million in 2013, seven years after he had damaged the painting with his elbow. The price he received was about US$16 million more than he had expected to sell it at for before the accident.

Whether Wynn can achieve a similar result with Le Marin isn’t clear. The accident happened at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza galleries on Friday, May 11, when an extension pole used for painting with a roller slid from a wall where it was leaning and fell, according to Michael Kosnitzky, a partner in the private wealth practice at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York, and an outside counsel for Wynn and his family. The pole was leaning against a wall in a “viewing area,” Kosnitzky says.

The attorney argues the accident was a “flagrant act of gross negligence,” arguing that a workman’s painting pole should not have been in an area where “multi-million dollar” paintings were unprotected. In the May 13 statement, Christie’s said Le Marin “was accidentally damaged Friday (May 11) during the final stages of preparation for Christie’s May 12-15 exhibition.” The auction house did not comment on Kosnitzky’s description of “gross negligence.”

Le Marin was to be a featured work of Christie’s evening sale of impressionist and modern art, carrying an “estimate on request” of US$70 million, according to the auction house. Christie’s estimated Picasso’s Femme au chat to sell between US$25 million and US$35 million.

Kosnitzky says the US$70 million estimate was a “floor, not a ceiling” on the work’s market value. “We believe it could have sold in excess of US$100 million,” he says, citing the fact  Picasso’s Rose Period Fillette a corbeille fleurie, 1905, sold during Peggy and David Rockefeller sale of 19th and 20th-century art at Christie’s on May 8 for US$115 million, with fees.

How to restore a painting

Collectors consigning their works to auction should take comfort from the fact that conservators like Lowy see very few accidents like the one Wynn just experienced, according to Shar.

“It happens on occasion, but only on occasion,” he says. “More often than not if you entrust a work to an auction house, particularly a work with a high value, it gets handled pretty carefully.”

Conservator Rustin Levinson, president of ArtCare Conservation, agrees, saying such incidents at auction houses are rare, but, she says, “accidents do happen.”

One factor in the potential repair of Le Marin could be the condition of the canvas, given the work was painted in 1943, Levinson says. Canvases become brittle and can tear more easily as they age. “The threads stretch and unravel,” Levinson says. If something went through it, she adds, the tear could be significant.

But if it’s a neat tear, “you can join it right up,” Levinson says.

How easily that’s done will depend on whether the canvas was “lined”—meaning a second canvas had been added to the back—or not. If a lining does exist, it will have to be removed before the painting can be repaired, a process that begins by stabilizing the paint with a “facing” that protects the paint, she says.

To replace or reweave a lining, though, is a major undertaking that could result in a “large loss of value,” Skar says.

Also important will be the success of “in-painting” or retouching the surface to restore color and detail. A plain surface can be more difficult to restore because the pigment has to be “right on the money,” he says. But, Skar adds, “if done very well and a buyer is not that particular, and not that much of a purist, (the painting) may be worth more” than it was before.

It’s unclear how much damage Le Marin suffered, what the loss of potential value in the work might be, and what would be involved in a repair. “All I can say is the adjuster is working on that,” Kosnitzky says.

Of course, a collector is unlikely to take a painting to a restorer unless it’s covered by insurance.

Auction houses often insure works “while in their care, custody, and control,” coverage that precludes a consignor’s own art insurance policy, says Sarah Johnson Court, managing director at VF GLobal Insurance Brokerage.

Christie’s consignment contracts have insurance provisions to cover damage and other contingencies.

While Kosnitzky can’t speak to how Le Marin was insured, he noted that Wynn, “having gone through this before in terms of damage, in terms of insurance issues and repairs, is a sophisticated business person and he made sure he was properly protected when he entered into his contract with Christie’s.”

Art in peril: Accidents happen, and Naples galleries and conservators have seen them all


Art in peril: Accidents happen, and Naples galleries and conservators have seen them all

Harriet Howard Heithaus – May 18, 2018


(Photo: Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News)



William Meek remembers the day a forklift accidentally rammed the crate holding a $20,000 painting in an exhibition he had organized — and went right through the painting.

It was the kind of nightmare galleries and curators dread but that happens in a physical world: “Great art isn’t necessarily immortal art,” observed Meek, curator emeritus at Harmon-Meek and Harmon-Meek Contemporary galleries.

He and other curators and art conservators had heard  — as anyone who reads weekly gossip magazines has — about the 1943 Picasso, “Le Marin,” that was damaged at Christie’s auction house just days before it was to be sold for an estimated $70 million.


Wagner points out some of the pieces he has recently restored at his work studio in Naples, Fla. on Thursday, May 16, 2018.  (Photo: Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News)


According to several stories, an errant paint roller extension rod leaning against a wall slipped and went through the lower right corner of the painting owned by casino billionaire Steve Wynn. Christie’s has remained silent on the type and extent of the damage.

Of course, any repair work is going to affect art’s value Meek said. “The painting in our exhibition eventually sold for $7,000,” he recalled.

That was after extensive work had gone into repair with restoration experts at the University of Minnesota.

“The painting was oil on Masonite panel and it was cracked in half,” he recalled of the 24- by 36-inch work by Aaron Bohrod, who was known for his trompe d’ oeil and landscape paintings.

Compounding the misfortune was Bohrod’s insistence that the insurance company pays him what he considered full value for his painting. “Full value” can be its own stumbling block, depending on the economy and the reputation of the artist.


The early cleaning process of the 1680’s painting Wagner recently finished restoring at his work studio in Naples, Fla. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Tom Wagner)


The early cleaning process of the 1680’s painting Wagner recently finished restoring at his work studio in Naples, Fla. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Tom Wagner)

Damage from Day 1

The vast amount of damage Morley Greenberg, director at the Marianne Friedland Gallery in Naples, has seen done to paintings isn’t in such freak accidents. Many people in Florida, especially, do their own damage by where they hang the art.

Florida sunlight is especially brutal on prints and watercolors, he said. “It fades your drapes. It fades your carpet. It’s going to fade your art,” he said.

Greenberg and every other person contacted said faded prints generally are a lost cause. Even torn paper can be repaired by a good expert; faded inks cannot.

“I always ask people, ‘Where are you thinking of hanging this?’ ” Greenberg said, warning every customer that direct sunlight is damaging. Even with ultra-violet filtering glass, limited exposure, if any, is best.

Greenberg has another worry for Florida art lovers: power outages. After Hurricane Irma, some art sat for weeks in hot, humid rooms, where humidity can bring out brown mold known as “foxing” on paper and can mold oils and acrylics as well. To avoid the expense of having them removed, Greenberg said all important art should be stored in an air-conditioned room with guaranteed power from a generator or taken with the owner to an air-conditioned location.


An 18th Century painting that was recently restored sits in Tom Wagner’s work studio in Naples, Fla. on Thursday, May 16, 2018.  (Photo: Olivia Vanni/Naples Daily News)


Beware the bubble wrap

Just don’t wrap them directly in bubble wrap, warned Tom Wagner, an art restorer in Naples who has worked with everything from 17th-century pieces, art painted over other art, and damaged paper works in his 30-plus years.

“If the work is exposed to any heat that wrap can melt into it. Some of the worst work I’ve had to do is from bubble wrap,” he said. Wagner suggested putting waxed paper between the wrap and the work to catch any melting.

Wagner has worked as an art conservator for more than 30 years, and he’s faced paintings with significant damage. He’s worked with two paintings that had been rammed by forklifts during a move. He’s the official restorer for the “Highwaymen” paintings by itinerant black artists that are a Southern art legacy. Those, he said, take special care. “They generally used regular house paint,” he explained,  and it could have been nearly any brand, any composition, and quality when it was applied.

The one he has printed on his business card, however, is an 1890 painting of a child holding a cat. A triangular tear had left it without a center, and the torn area was missing. Wagner, who is an artist himself, had to create part of the cat’s face, its neck and the tips of the holder’s fingers. It was a full month of work.

More often, he said, humidity damage and smoke damage are the problems. Even a house with a fireplace can leave your art yellowed. Cracks in the paint aren’t necessarily a problem, he said:

“That’s a sign that it’s an old painting. If someone brought me a painting with hairline cracks, I’d say leave it alone. But if it’s started to peel or flake off it needs attention.”

Both Wagner and Viviana Dominguez, with Art Conservators Lab LLC, emphasize that true conservators make their work completely reversible.

It serves the needs of forensics: If someone needs to take the painting down to the original piece, it can be done, Dominguez explained.


A severely damaged painting before being restored at Tom Wagner’s work studio in Naples, Fla.  (Photo: Photo courtesy of Tom Wagner)


“The materials conservators use age, too,” she said. ” In a hundred years, the technology may change and they may want to restore the paintings with these new materials. So you have to be able to go back to the original.”

Art Conservators Lab has offices in Naples and Fort Lauderdale and works extensively with Florida museums. But Dominguez, who is a qualified National Heritage Responder, has worked directly with badly damaged works from museums in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there, helping to dig out art from under the rubble.

Closer to home, one of her concerns is amateur restoration: “People say, ‘Oh, I can fix that,’ but they don’t know what they’re doing with the kinds of glue they use and what they do to the paint,” she said.

On the practical level

On a practical level, Jack O’Brien, curator for the Naples Art Association, said he learned one of his best maxims in art preservation from the late Sandy Nash, former art curator for what is now The Baker Museum.

“Two hands for the artwork. That helps you concentrate on what you’re doing with it,” he said. He has two other maxims: Don’t pick up a painting by its top frame bar or the hanger wire.

“Some things are framed loosely and you pick up by the top bar, it can come off,” he said.

He’s a firm believer in using clean gloves to carry art as well. “You have oils in your hands. That is being transferred to the art and it’s going to stay there until it’s cleaned off.”

Art ‘damaged’ at interactive exhibit at Museum Macan


Art ‘damaged’ at interactive exhibit at Museum Macan

ASMARA WREKSONO – May 19, 2018
Multiple screenshots of Instagram Stories by user @amansaulia went viral Thursday night, depicting a seemingly disorderly state of several works of art from renowned artist Yayoi Kusama at Museum Macan in Jakarta. Netizens were quick to react on social media, deriding museum-goers over their preference to take selfies over immersing themselves in Kusama’s legendary work. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Multiple screenshots of Instagram Stories by user @amansaulia went viral Thursday night, depicting a seemingly disorderly state of several works of art from renowned artist Yayoi Kusama at Museum Macan in Jakarta. Netizens were quick to react on social media, criticizing museum-goers for taking selfies instead of immersing themselves in Kusama’s legendary work.





The screenshots show a misplaced object not attached to its fitting, a visitor hugging a spherical sculpture, a torn sticker missing one of its halves, and artwork on the ground, as opposed to on the wall.

However, according to the museum, this was all expected.

Museum Macan communications officer Nina Hidayat told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the torn sticker was a result of the exhibit’s interactive nature.

“We would like to clarify that the sticker captured in the Instagram Story was the one in the Obliteration Room. It’s a paper sticker and for it to be torn is expected. We don’t see it as damage to the artwork, rather as a consequence of visitors interacting with it,” she said.

The museum educated the public on museum etiquette before the exhibition opened. “In a talk show at the preview event with the museum’s chairwoman, Fenessa Adikoesoemo, we announced why this exhibition is important, [talked about] etiquette and explained why we invited influencers,” said Nina.

Signs with museum rules were installed at the museum’s entrance, while security guards and museum assistants were tasked with actively reminding visitors about the rules. Reminders were also announced through a PA system.

When asked about whether the museum had a specific age restriction, Nina said it was and always would be open to people of all ages.

“The museum has always been open to all ages, even parents who bring their babies in strollers, and visitors in wheelchairs,” she said.

Nina encouraged visitors to experience Yayoi Kusama’s art, while also adhering to its rules.

“When you visit the Obliteration Room, it’s more or less the same as visiting someone’s home. When you’re a guest, you normally sit on the sofa and chair, not the tables or counters. It’s the same in the Obliteration Room.”

The Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibition runs from May 12 to Sept. 9 on Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with final entry at 7 p.m. The line to the Infinity Room closes at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online. For detailed information on museum etiquette, visit Museum Macan’s Instagram account @museummacan.

Art prices at ‘obscene’ levels as Chinese join high-spending elite


Art prices at ‘obscene’ levels as Chinese join high-spending elite

Fine art is almost always a good bet for the super-rich, but it’s worth remembering that the $157m paid for a Modigliani last week could have supported 10,000 budding artists for a year

Richard PartingtonMay 19, 2018


Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani, sold at Sotheby’s in New York for more than $157m. Photograph: AP


When even the experts are warning that prices for works of art have become obscene, it is probably time to run a dispassionate eye over the multimillion-dollar frenzy for certain works.

Last week, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani sold to an unnamed buyer for $157m, and a new record was set for a David Hockney painting when Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica was bought for $28.5m.

Clare McAndrew of consultancy Arts Economics says: “It’s slightly obscene, isn’t it? When you think of the other artists who could be supported by that money.” She adds that the Modigliani transaction is an illustration of the wealthy elite’s predilection for untamed spending: “To spend money on one thing like that shows ultra-wealth gone wild.”

The price reached at the Modigliani auction reflects the state of the world economy, says McAndrew, who also compiles an annual study of the global art market with Art Basel and Swiss bank UBS. Stronger growth is fueling the market, spiraling prices reflect rising rampant and rising inequality across advanced economies.

The art market broadly matched the growth rate of the global economy between 2000 and 2017, according to the latest Art Basel and UBS report, with world GDP and wealth both rising last year. Even so, some paintings are so famous they can fetch dizzyingly high prices when the economy is in a downturn.

Simple economics suggest the price of an artwork is determined by how much a buyer is prepared to spend and what a seller would accept. The cold equation of supply and demand also means the death of an artist – immediately limiting their output – raises the value of their work.

But unlike widgets, whose value can be calculated by looking at rates of production and demand from consumers, there are myriad intangibles in the world of art. Any price tag at all can seem jarring for a creative medium where consumption is an issue of taste, not necessity, and the motive for the work is, ideally, creative expression, not financial gain.

Obviously, some artists play the market. Purists have objected to Damien Hirst’s production-line techniques, and Andy Warhol turned the idea of authenticity upside down with his screen prints. Yet works by both artists have retained their value. Gustav Metzger, who died aged 90 last year, was revered for his auto-destructive art: he sprayed acid on canvas to cause damage over time, defying the notion of long-term commercial value.

For the most famous artists, the sums can be huge. With its $450m price tag six months ago, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi remains the most expensive painting ever sold. Thirteen Picassos were bought for $155m over two days in February by one art consultancy, while the overall value of global fine-art sales rose by 12% to $63.7bn last year.

Experts say the finest works rarely come up for sale, yet demand is increasing as newly wealthy Chinese buyers compete with financiers and Saudi sheiks.

“Scarcity rules,” says McAndrew. “People are always waiting in the wings. It can be 30 years before a painting comes up and some never turn around in people’s lifetimes.”

Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), painted in 1917, three years before Modigliani’s death at 35, is one of the Italian painter’s largest works, and one of only five of his nudes ever to come up for auction. It was last sold in 2003, for $26.9m – reportedly to the Irish horse breeder John Magnier at Christie’s.

This would appear to make fine art a surefire winner for wealthy investors. But the market has crashed before, most spectacularly after Japanese buyers acquired half of all the impressionist art put on the market in 1990. The bubble burst a year later when Japan’s economy crashed after an unsustainable property boom.

Today, hedge fund billionaires and wealthy Asian investors trade canvases like stocks, bonds or commodities – mirroring a trend for the hoarding of fine wines, where crates of vintage red can be left unopened for decades, then sold at higher prices.

Mega sales may boost egos in the City but the Modigliani sale alone could put at least 10,000 students through a year of art school in the UK.

Andrew Renton, professor of curating at Goldsmiths University, agrees that the money could be put to better use elsewhere. “There are impossible amounts of money to be made in the world today. It can be used for good, or in a lot of very interesting ways. Culture is a good use, but I also think putting £1bn into curing cancer is also good.”