Monthly Archives: December 2016

Court Orders Antiques Dealer to Pay

A court has ordered antiques dealer Jack Shaoul to pay gallerist Alex Komolov $1.1 million over the sale of a fake Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting.

According to Page 6, Komolov, who owns the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan, was awarded the amount he paid for the fraudulent canvas in 2010. The decision concludes a bizarre trial in which the defendant claimed in his testimony, among other things, that he bought the painting from a dead man called Joe Levy who briefly came back to life for two months, before dying again.

Additionally, Shaoul’s legal team attempted to use Komolov’s nationality to portray him as dishonest by pointing out that he’s from Russia—a baldfaced attempt to take advantage of the climate of distrust stemming from Vladimir Putin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 American presidential election.

“Attempts to smear Alex with his Russian heritage were weak at best and deplorable at worst,” Komolov’s crisis manager Wendy Feldman told Page 6.

Komolov’s attorney, Phil Chronakis, of the law firm Budd Larner, also pointed out that Shaoul already served time in prison for art fraud. He explained, “As Alex’s lawyer, my focus is on collecting this judgment, which will be $1.8 million, because of the seven years of interest that comes with the verdict.”

Meanwhile, the painting’s fate hangs in the balance, and Chronakis said it should be given to the district attorney to take it out of the marketplace and prevent future fraud from occurring in connection with the canvas.

The Art Newspapers Museum Attendance Report

Cultural institutions are facing a host of challenges according to a 2016 attendance survey from the Art Newspaper. Falling tourism against the backdrop of international terrorism, increased competition from the private sector, and rising overheads, are all issues that museums must contend with.

Terrorism knocks museum attendance in Europe

Terror attacks weighed on tourism and had a knock-on effect on museum visitors to European institutions. French institutions in particular, were negatively affected. Although the Louvre still topped TAN‘s survey with 7.4 million visitors in 2016, it was nonetheless a drop of 1.2 million people compared to the 8.6 million visitors recorded in 2015. The Musée d’Orsay also saw visitor numbers fall, to 3 million attendees in 2016, a sizable deficit compared to the 3.4 million visitors it recorded in 2015. However, at the Centre Pompidou, which is less reliant on visitors from overseas, numbers were up by 275,000 to 3.3 million.

In Belgium, terror attacks in Brussels last March also affected attendance at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique which encompasses several venues throughout the Belgian capital. Numbers dropped by a third, falling from 776,000 in 2015 to 497,000 in 2016.

Publicly accessible collections funded by private collectors and benefactors are becoming a force to be reckoned with. The current crop of private mega-collectors have resources and budgets at their disposal that most institutions can only dream of, which is reflected in the growing visitor numbers of these privately-owned museums. Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim’s Museo Soumaya in Mexico City topped the world’s private museums, attracting 2.2 million visitors. Bernard Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris attracted 1.2 million visitors, while Eli and Edythe Broad’s Broad museum tallied 753,000 visitors.

Art Dealer Perry Rubenstein

Los Angeles art dealer Perry Rubenstein has pleaded no contest to two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement for failing to pay clients including Hollywood tycoon Michael Ovitz, reports the Los Angeles Times. Art collector Michael Salke also claimed Rubenstein defrauded him.

Rubenstein could get up to 180 days in jail when he’s sentenced on May 22, and he’ll have to pay restitution. Variety reports that the judge will order Rubenstein to pay some $1.14 million, but that he’s expected to pay just $167,500.

At the heart of the case were works by Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

Rubenstein sold two Prince works for Ovitz, one for less than the agreed minimum, and kept the payment. Ovitz took insurer Chartis Property Casualty to court to get reimbursed $2.5 million for an untitled Prince painting and $1.6 million for Nobody’s Home, per court papers consulted by the LA Times.

Salke sold the Murakami work via Rubenstein. The buyer, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, had paid $825,000 for the piece, but Rubenstein told Salke that the foundation had paid just $630,000. The facts came out, as it happens, after Salke brought suit when Rubenstein tried to add $20,000 to his commission, reported the LA Times at the time. Rubenstein was arrested in April 2016.

His eponymous Hollywood gallery, opened in 2012, filed for bankruptcy in 2014, indicating that the gallery’s assets were up to $1 million but that its liabilities were as much as $10 million. The dealer, who owed money to the IRS, street artist Shepard Fairey, and the powerful New York attorney Aaron Richard Golub, assured artnet News at the time that he intended to resolve his credit issues.

Rubenstein had his beginnings in New York, where he had worked as a dealer beginning in the 1980s, and opened a gallery on 23rd Street in 2004. He worked with artists including Kamrooz Aram, Iwan Baan, Zoe Crosher, Georg Herold, Richard Woods, and Amir Zaki.

The Art World This Week in One Minute

In a conversation with artnet News, Whitney Biennial co-curator Christopher Lew offers a spirited defense of artist Dana Schutz‘s contested painting of the disfigured corpse of Emmett Till: “I don’t think there is any blame to be laid, period.”

We’ve gotten some new glimpses of the radically dark pigment Vantablack, which eats lasers and flattens reality. Also this week in Vantablack news, in the latest installment of an ongoing feud, artist Stuart Semple sells his own super-dark artist material, which is available to all artists—unlike Vantablack, to which Anish Kapoor has the exclusive rights.

Ai Weiwei fans living in New York will be thrilled to know about an ambitious outdoor project the Chinese artist is undertaking with the city’s Public Art Fund.

Planning some museum visits this spring? Don’t miss these 25 must-see shows.

She wasn’t just Rodin’s girlfriend and muse—Camille Claudel was an artist in her own right, and now she’s getting her own museum.

In a case that pitted an art dealer against Hollywood royalty, Perry Rubenstein has pleaded no contest to charges of defrauding Michael Ovitz in a sale of two Richard Prince paintings.

Also this week in art and crime, Robert “the cook” Gentile, whom investigators have long had their eye on in the investigation of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, pleaded guilty in an unrelated guns charge, which he says is just a way of pressuring him in the museum investigation.

New Yorkers lost a chance to see the offerings of the first-ever Iranian gallery slated to participate in the AIPAD photography fair, taking place this week; Ag Galerie dropped out due to President Donald Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration from six majority-Muslim nations.