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.”

Want your stolen portrait back? Bring us £100,000 cash: What gangsters told Francis Bacon after taking his famous likeness, painted by Lucian Freud, from Berlin art gallery 30 years ago


Want your stolen portrait back? Bring us £100,000 cash: What gangsters told Francis Bacon after taking his famous likeness, painted by Lucian Freud, from Berlin art gallery 30 years ago

  • The masterpiece Portrait Of Francis Bacon disappeared 30 years ago from Berlin
  • Mail on Sunday can reveal that Bacon received a ransom demand a year later
  • Barry Joule, Bacon’s close friend and neighbor in London’s South Kensington, has now revealed that the artist received a phone call in his studio from ‘a tough-sounding East End man, probably an associate of the Krays’ 

It is one of the art world’s great unsolved mysteries – the daring theft of Lucian Freud’s portrait of fellow artist Francis Bacon.

The masterpiece, Portrait Of Francis Bacon, disappeared without a trace after it was removed from its wire frame and spirited out of Berlin‘s National Gallery 30 years ago.

But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Bacon received a ransom demand a year later in 1989 and was apparently poised to recover the work – only for the operation to be wrecked by a police blunder.

Portrait Of Francis Bacon was spirited out of Berlin’s National Gallery 30 years ago. Pictured: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud

During the 1960s, Bacon fraternized with gangsters, among them Ronnie Kray.

Joule recalls: ‘[The gangster] told him, ‘If you want to get yer face picture back, get £100K together and wait by the phone for a call at noon exactly.’ ‘

Francis called Joule who drove his black Porsche to pick up Bacon from his studio and take him to his flat. Even though he didn’t own the painting, Bacon then panicked and stuffed £140,000 into a satchel, reappearing ‘sweating and nervous’.

They argued over whether to contact police but Bacon was ‘dead set against doing that’ because he still felt aggrieved by a 1968 drugs bust involving his then lover, George Dyer.

People look towards the wild west-style wanted poster showing the reward for the return of the portrait of the late British artist Francis Bacon in downtown Berlin June in 2001

Instead, he alerted the head of security at the Tate gallery, which had bought the picture in 1952 from Freud and had loaned it to the German museum in 1988 when it was stolen.

Then they went back to the studio to await the noon call, but it never came. Leaving the studio several hours later the two men spotted ‘three undercover policemen’ in a Ford Fiesta. Joule said they all had their ‘heads buried in newspapers’.

Convinced the gangsters must also have spotted them, Bacon shouted angrily at the officers.

For weeks afterward, Bacon ‘remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be ‘out to get me for grassing to the police’,’ said Joule, who added: ‘If it wasn’t for policemen sitting in their car right outside the building, Francis might have got the stolen painting back.’ In a recorded interview with Joule three months after the ransom blunder, Bacon spoke of ‘how much the police have gone down in my estimation’.

Bacon (pictured) ‘remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be ‘out to get me for grassing to the police’

Freud later plastered Berlin with ‘Wanted’ posters of the image, offering a £100,000 reward for its recovery so he could include it in a retrospective of his work.

Although the Tate has never claimed the insurance money, because it has hoped to be reunited with the painting, Bacon, who died in 1992, was more pessimistic. ‘Most likely it was burnt,’ he says on the recording.

The Tate continues to list the painting in its catalog, simply noting ‘not on display’.

In 2004, Joule gave the Tate 1,200 Bacon sketches. They were then valued at about £20million.

He kept about 120 sketches, and he is lending some to an exhibition in Italy, at the Foundation Sorrento museum, in Sorrento, which opens today and runs until October 21.

Idols stolen from Tamil Nadu temples traced to museums in US


Idols stolen from Tamil Nadu temples traced to museums in US

Jaya Menon – May 20, 2018, 10:24 IST

Bronze idols of Shiva and Parvati
Six exquisite Chola-era bronzes that went missing from the Veeracholapuram Shiva temple in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu probably more than five decades ago have found their way to museums abroad. While heritage enthusiasts helped trace idols of Shiva and Parvati to the Cleveland Museum of Art, those of Saint Sundarar with wife Paravai have been showcased in the Freer Gallery of Art, both in the US. A beautifully crafted Nataraja idol and a bronze figure of Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti were auctioned by Christie’s, probably in the 2000s. The bronzes are believed to have left the Indian shores in the 1960s.

Tamil Nadu idol wing CID registered a case of idols missing from the Villupuram temple on May 10 based on a complaint by a Chennai-based advocate Elephant G Rajendran. Shortly thereafter, heritage enthusiasts dipped into the archives of the French Institute of Pondicherry (FIP) and hit a jackpot. The institute had documented in 1956 nine bronzes of the ancient temple, dating to the 11th century of King Rajendra Chola’s reign.

It was believed that seven of the nine bronzes were stolen in the 1960s. Only two remain in the temple now.
“Within a few hours of getting the images from the FIP, we managed to track down the bronzes to the Cleveland and Freer Sackler Museums,” said heritage enthusiast S Vijaykumar. He also found that Christie’s had auctioned the Nataraja for $3,00,000 in 2003 in New York and another Shiva idol as late as 2013 for $1.3million.

“There seems to have been an attempt to recover a few lesser bronzes and few petty thieves were booked. The mystery, however, is why the case was not extended to cover the more important larger bronzes. This indicates some sort of complicity,” said Vijaykumar. The priests or staff, who were managing the temple then, are not alive anymore, idol wing CID, Pon Manickavel told TOI. “The museums have indicated they will return the idols,” he told TOI. “The Indian government should formally write to them,” said Vijaykumar. The FIP has 1.67 lakh photographs of temple architecture, of which more than 50% pertain to TN. But, the TN government failed to take up systematic documentation of its temples, said French Institute of Pondicherry photographer K Ramesh Kumar.

How to fake it at an art opening: What to do when you don’t understand what you see


How to fake it at an art opening: What to do when you don’t understand what you see

Of course, you know what you’re talking about

Is this how you feel at an art show? You’re not alone, and you’re going to be fine. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

You’re at an art show. You look around and … you don’t understand anything you’re seeing.

Maybe you see a person sitting on a giant cake, whispering to a head of lettuce? Maybe that person is your co-worker? And maybe turning around and leaving isn’t really an option for you at this point.

Don’t worry, you can do this. Here’s how to fake it at an art show when you have no clue about art.

Talk to the artist immediately when you get there

As soon as you walk in the door, you approach the artist and politely say, “Oh, I haven’t had the opportunity to look around yet, but I’m looking forward to it!”

You are now hereby absolved of actually having to talk about the art to its fragile creator.

Say ‘cheese!’

Any art opening worth attending will have at least a small selection of nibbles. If you’re lucky, you might just score a free glass of wine.

Inevitably, you will get sucked into a conversation, and when that old acquaintance asks what you’ve been up to for the past five years, never forget your safe space! The cheese plate will always be there for you.

“Sorry, Linda, I skipped lunch. I’m going to go grab some dry brie and a Breton cracker.”

Stare at the wall

At what other social event can you simply stand with your back to everyone instead of trying to make small talk, and have it be seen as cultured and thoughtful?

Pro tip: this only works if you have your body aimed at one of the artworks.

Unless you’re willing to argue the greater significance of a blank wall, which might, in fact, make you an Art Star.

Use as many buzzwords as possible

Art is never good or bad, and everything is based on opinion. Instead of saying, “I like this,” try using words to say nothing at all.

“I am noticing the anachronistic use of chiaroscuro highlighting the golden ratio. It’s really giving the work a synergistic balance and tapping into the general zeitgeist of the era.”

It’s 10 times as long and ultimately contributes nothing! You’ll sound very smart to anyone not understanding what those words mean, and by the time anyone processes it, you’ll be long gone with a pocket full of cheese cubes.

Digest the art, not just cheese

Anxiety can skyrocket during social gatherings, but there is one thing that actually helps you survive an art opening: looking at the art.

Listen to what other people are saying, engage and let your honest reactions come out. You might find that you understand it more than you think.

Art shouldn’t be a scary, unapproachable thing. There’s a reason why most openings are Friday nights and not Monday mornings.

Art can make you smile just like this, says Jason Wells. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

You don’t need to talk about art or understand it. You don’t even need to like it. Your reaction is just as valid as anyone’s and there is no wrong way to engage with art.

The best thing about an art show should be the art and the connections you make with people by talking about it. The cheese is just a perk.

Oh, and the reason everyone’s hand is on their chin isn’t to look pensive. It’s to hide their red wine lips.

Wallingford community comes together to help cleanup historic site

Wallingford community comes together to help cleanup historic site


Wallingford community comes together to help clean up historic site

WALLINGFORD — Community members all around the state are coming together to help each other clean up from Tuesday’s storm damage. On Sunday Wallingford community members came out to help clean up a historic site.

“The Cheshire, Wallingford Hamden area got especially hard hit as you know they designated some as tornado (damage),” Cheshire resident Richard Straub said.

The Silver Museum sits on South main street. I was built by Franklin Johnson in 1866, making it one of the oldest in town.

Jerry Farrell “Just devastated luckily the house was still fine but the backyard which we use a lot for events and historic demonstrations was just filled with disheveled trees,” Wallingford Preservation Trust President Jerry Farrell said.

Farrell put out the call for help to clean up the debris and more than a dozen people came ready to lend a hand.

“We live in this town and we love this town so many areas, just even our town alone let alone the whole state was just devastated, we got really lucky,” volunteer Marty Mansfield said.

Museum board members say luckily the damage to the building was minor but times like this show just how important neighbors helping neighbors can be.