Auction

How my family recovered a painting stolen by the Nazis and sold it for $2.9 million

“How my family recovered a painting stolen by the Nazis and sold it for $2.9 million”

by Peter J. Toren via “Yahoo! News

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On a warm, humid June evening on Regent Street in London, among the fanciest stores in the world, the international art auction house, Sotheby’s, auctioned the Max Liebermann painting Two Riders on a Beach, for many times the pre-sale estimate to an unknown buyer. The painting, a 1901 scene of two elegantly dressed men riding chestnut horses with the surf breaking behind them, belonged to my great great uncle David Friedmann, and was stolen from him by the Nazis.

I saw the painting in person with my son for the first time the day before the auction. German tax investigators found the painting in the Munich home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of the infamous art dealer to the Nazis, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Two Riders was part of a 1,200-work trove that was found in Gurlitt’s home in Munich, which included some invaluable pieces that had been stored in tomato crates. While a number of the other works were likely also stolen from Jewish owners, the German government has only returned one painting to its rightful Jewish owner other than Two Riders.

The history of the painting, and especially its recovery, represents a story of success, struggle, survival and redemption that many Jewish families have gone through in the last 100 years.

David Friedmann’s family, a wealthy and successful German-Jewish family, owned a 10,000-acre sugar beet farm, that included a distillery for making schnapps and a “castle,” near Breslau, now Wroclaw in western Poland. Friedmann was an avid collector of art, and in addition to Two Riders, also owned works by Camille Pissarro, Gustave Courbet, Jean Francois Raffaelli, and Henri Rousseau, along with a remarkably comprehensive collection of Italian, German and Dutch fine pottery.

Villa Grisebach, the German auction house, also sold from the Gurlitt trove another Liebermann, The Basket Weavers, looted from Friedmann. My father, who vividly remembers Two Riders hanging in a sunroom in Friedmann’s home in Breslau, recalls him as a kindly, though imposing man, who liked to give parties, attended by German intellectuals including the composer Richard Strauss.

My father and his brother were the only members of his family to survive the Holocaust and as a child of a survivor, I grew up listening to my father tell me stories of my family’s German history and the connection to David Friedmann. My grandfather was a prominent lawyer in Breslau, and as dispensation for serving as a Colonel in the German Army in the First World War, he was able to continue to represent Jewish clients even after other German Jewish lawyers could no longer do legal work. On November 10, 1938, the morning after Kristallnacht, when Jewish stores and businesses were looted, and Jews were beaten and killed, my grandfather was required to assist Friedmann in “selling” some of his property to the Nazi General Ewald von Kleist. . . . .

 

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Italian millionaire sues Christie’s over record-breaking $40m sale of his father’s ‘stolen’ pink Princie Diamond he claims the auction house had no right to sell

“Italian millionaire sues Christie’s over record-breaking $40m sale of his father’s ‘stolen’ pink Princie Diamond he claims the auction house had no right to sell”

by Pete D’Amato

A rare pink diamond that surfaced in 2013 to fetch $40million at auction has fueled a feud among relatives of a late Italian senator as his son claims the stone was stolen by a backstabbing step-sibling.

Amedeo Angiolillo, who currently lives in New York, filed suit against Christie’s on Friday, alleging the auction house had sold off the 300-year-old, 34.65-carat Indian diamond to an anonymous buyer on behalf of someone other than its rightful owner.

Named the Princie Diamond, the pink gem ‘is one the rarest, perhaps most famous and illustrious pink diamonds in the world,’ according to the complaint filed in Manhattan supreme court.

Rare: The Princie Diamond that surfaced in 2013 to fetch $40million at auction has fueled a feud among relatives of a late Italian senator as his son claims the stone was stolen by a backstabbing step-sibling

Rare: The Princie Diamond that surfaced in 2013 to fetch $40million at auction has fueled a feud among relatives of a late Italian senator as his son claims the stone was stolen by a backstabbing step-sibling

According to Christie’s website, the diamond received the name after being purchased at auction by jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels, who named it in honor of the 14-year-old Prince of Baroda, son of Maharani Sita Devi.

The gem had been passed down through generations of Indian rulers before landing in the possession of Mir Osman Ali Khan of Hyderabad, who eventually sold it through Southeby’s.

The jewel came into Angiolillo’s family’s possession when his father, Renato Angiolillo, the founder of Italian newspaper Il Tempo, purchased the stone in 1961, the New York Post reports.

Having just wed his second wife, Maria Girani, Renato made a gift of the diamond – one that carried a caveat.

Renato’s new bride would ‘not have unfettered access to’ her husband’s collection of precious stones, according to the complaint.

The arrangement would last up until the newspaper magnate’s death in 1973, when Amedeo cut a deal with his step-mother that allowed her to continue wearing the diamond, the lawsuit states.

Prized possession: The jewel came into Angiolillo's family's possession when Renato Angiolillo (pictured), the founder of Italian newspaper Il Tempo, purchased the stone in 1961

Prized possession: The jewel came into Angiolillo’s family’s possession when Renato Angiolillo (pictured), the founder of Italian newspaper Il Tempo, purchased the stone in 1961

High society: Renato Angiolillo (right) had a taste for precious stones, and was reported to have bought the diamond in Paris after losing big at the Monte Carlo casino

High society: Renato Angiolillo (right) had a taste for precious stones, and was reported to have bought the diamond in Paris after losing big at the Monte Carlo casino

The younger Angiolillo agreed to let Girani hold onto the diamond ‘because she was quite active and influential in Italian politics and sponsored political, social and business meetings at her home,’ a gift Renato bequeathed her in his will.

‘Girani had a good relationship with her husband’s children and grandchildren, confirming on several occasions that the gems in her possession, including the Princie Diamond, belonged to them by inheritance, and that they would be returned to them after her death,’ according to documents filed.

Yet when Girani, too, passed away in 2009 and her husband’s heirs came looking for the precious stone, they say it wasn’t among her belongings.

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Sotheby’s Brushes Up Its Image With London Auction

“Sotheby’s Brushes Up Its Image With London Auction”

by Mary Lane via “WSJ

The sale of Gerhard Richter's ’Abstract Picture, 599’ for $46 million set an auction record for the German artist.

LONDON— Sotheby’s shook off doubts stemming from the ouster of its chief executive late last year, earning this past week its highest total for artwork auctioned in London from its contemporary art department.

The company’s annual February auction Tuesday totaled $188 million, representing a 31% increase from 2014’s February sale.

In November, William Ruprecht stepped down as Sotheby’s CEO, following a monthslong campaign by hedge-fund activist Dan Loeb to shake up the company’s management. Mr. Ruprecht’s handling of the contemporary art division was a focus of criticism.

On Friday, Sotheby’s said it wouldn’t be paying a special dividend initiated last year, saying it wanted to preserve “flexibility” in its “capital allocation” while searching for a new chief executive.

Tuesday’s auction result, within Sotheby’s $136 million to $193 million pre-sale estimate, helped the publicly traded auction house beat privately owned nemesis Christie’s, which sold $178 million worth of art on Wednesday, down 16% from a year earlier.

Asian and Middle Eastern participation in Sotheby’s evening session on Tuesday was low, with only 9% of buyers from that region. But South American participation doubled from last year, with 37% of buyers coming from South and North America combined. At Christie’s, about a fifth of buyers were from Asia and the Middle East, with Europe and North America accounting for about half.

The week’s biggest art sale was Gerhard Richter’s 1986 painting “Abstract Picture, 599.” It sold over the phone to Ken Griffin, founder of investment fund Citadel, at Sotheby’s for $46 million, according to people familiar with the matter. The purchase was highly unusual for the billionaire, better known for collecting more mainstream artwork, including Impressionists. Mr. Griffin broke the previous Richter record of $37 million set by Sotheby’s in May 2013. The 118-inch by 99-inch work, featuring a metallic-looking paint that glistens, drew its second-highest bid from a private collector working through Gallus Pesendorfer, a Cologne-based specialist who typically works with German buyers.

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“How Christie’s Is Winning the Art Auction Wars”

“How Christie’s Is Winning the Art Auction Wars”

by Diane Brady via BloombergBusinessWeek

Untitled, by Martin Kippenberger, sold for $18.6 million, the highest bid at Christie’s May 12 auction

“Christie’s, the 248-year-old auction house, is taking off its suit and putting on some ripped jeans. To promote its May 12 auction, If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday, the company posted a YouTube video of skateboarder Chris Martin careening past multimillion-dollar art to the indie hit Sail by Awolnation. The curator, Loic Gouzer, a handsome contemporary art expert who’s been linked to Mad Men star January Jones, hyped the works on his Instagram feed. Last July, Christie’s held a charity sale hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio (who happens to be a friend of Gouzer’s). And during 2013 it ran 49 Web-only, youth-friendly auctions—prints went for as little as a few hundred dollars. The initiatives have helped bring in a record $7.1 billion in sales in the past year, compared with $6.3 billion at rival Sotheby’s(BID).

All this was dreamed up by Christie’s chief executive officer, Steven Murphy. Unlike his competitors, Murphy has no prior fine art expertise (or noble European lineage) and says that selling artists’ work isn’t that different from his former jobs as president of Angel Records and publishing house Rodale. Soon after he arrived at Christie’s in 2010, he began allowing buyers to bid on works online. It seems obvious, but for a fusty auction house it was a revolutionary tactic. . . . .”

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“Paintings looted by Nazi, recovered by Allies to be auctioned in NY”

“Paintings looted by Nazi, recovered by Allies to be auctioned in NY”

by Patricia Reaney via “Yahoo News

“NEW YORK (Reuters) – Paintings looted by the Nazis during World War Two and retrieved by the Monuments Men, the Allied group tasked with returning masterpieces to their rightful owners, will be sold at auction on Thursday in New York.

The works, which will go under the hammer during Sotheby’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, were among the tens of thousands of works recovered by the art experts whose story is told in the George Clooney film “The Monuments Men,” which opens in U.S. theaters on February 7.

“The scale of looting was absolutely extraordinary,” said Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s head of restitution.

“In France, for example, 36,000 paintings were stolen from institutions and largely from individuals. The Monuments Men managed to recover and return the majority of those,” he said in an interview.

Two small paintings in the sale, “La cueillette des roses” and “Le musicien” by the French rococo artist Jean-Baptise Pater, were chosen by Adolf Hitler’s air force chief Hermann Goering for his personal collection. . . . . .”