Entries in art (12)


Art Dealer in Federal Court for Selling Millions Worth of Forgeries

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Long Island art dealer will be in federal court Friday for allegedly selling tens of millions of dollars in counterfeit paintings to two of New York City's top galleries.

A 19-page indictment claims Glarifa Rosales made $33 million dollars selling forgeries that she claimed were by 20th century artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. According to the indictment, Rosales sold 63 fakes from 1994 to 2009.

Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett says forgery is easy because the art business is unregulated.

“My guess is she made the price attractive,” Garrett said. “There's one quote where she sold the painting to the art dealer for around a little under a million dollars. And then they turned around and sold it for $12 million dollars. So there's some greed going on here.”

“The ability for someone to pass a forgery is actually not that difficult if in fact you have an excellent forgery, which apparently, she had a number of them,” Garret added.

However, the former FBI agent did express some surprise that the scam lasted as long as it did without someone checking to authenticate the paintings.

“One would think if you produced, for example, a new painting by Jackson Pollock that you would go to a Jackson Pollock expert and say ‘look a woman has now arrived with the following painting -- have you ever seen this before?’”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Playboy Bunny Sign Stirs Controversy Along West Texas Road

Amina Munster/Getty Images(MARFA, Texas) -- A 40-foot tall neon Playboy bunny erected just outside  the high desert town of  Marfa, Texas, has stirred controversy among West Texas residents, with some calling the sign a work of art and others declaring  it an eyesore and a marketing ploy.

The Texas Department of Transportation has ordered that Playboy’s roadside artwork, called “Playboy Marfa,” be removed on the grounds that Playboy did not have a Texas license for outdoor advertising, never submitted a specific permit application for the sign, and that, furthermore,  the location did not qualify for a permit,  according to a statement the agency released to ABC News.

Marfa Mayor Dan Dunlap said it was not surprising that Playboy would try to promote its brand in a town long known as an art mecca, adding that perhaps Playboy’s was trying to create a new image for itself. Playboy’s website does refer to the company trying to “reimagine the iconic brand.”

“The exploitation of Playboy to try to tag on to Marfa seems to irritate a lot of people,” said Dunlap. “The Texas Department of Transportation is treading a thin line here. They decided it’s advertising, versus artwork, therefore, it falls into the category of signage.”

Playboy could not be reached for comment over the July 4 holiday weekend, but company representatives told the El Paso Times that Playboy had not violated any laws and would try to work with the Texas Department of Transportation to resolve its concerns. PR Consulting, which represents Playboy Enterprises, told the paper its legal counsel “was looking into the matter and hoped to resolve the issue satisfactorily and as quickly as possible.”

“Playboy Marfa” doesn’t stand alone in the pasture along Highway 90. Designed by New York artist Richard Phillips and Playboy’s creative director of special projects Neville Wakefield, it is part of a roadside installation that also includes a 1972 Dodge Charger, another American icon.

Dunlap said he suspected Playboy would fight against removing the sign.

“This is not the first time something like this happened,” Dunlap said. “Prada Marfa,” erected in 2005 on the same stretch of highway as “Playboy Marfa,” spoofed the luxury fashion house.

“Other artists come into town to set up shop. There is other artwork that’s outside city limits that is not permitted either. Personally, I don’t find the sign to be offensive.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Ancient Petroglyphs Stolen Along California Cliffs; Local Native Americans Stunned

File photo. Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(BISHOP, Calif.) -- Petroglyphs, rock engravings left by ancient Native American people, stood along the California cliffs for up to 5,000 years. Yet it only took a concrete saw and pliers for thieves to steal the ancient rock writings last month, leaving the surrounding community stunned.

“When we went out there and looked at it, it hit my heart more than it did anything else,” said Raymond Andrews, the historic preservation officer of the Bishop Paiute tribe. “These are old and it’s part of our culture.”

The thieves did damage to six different petroglyphs, removing five and damaging one that was left behind. The carvings stood along cliffs of the Eastern Sierra Volcanic Tableland near the California-Nevada border, approximately 15 miles north of Bishop, Calif. They are what the local community calls “rock writings,” also referred to as rock art.

“They’re old writings that our local people here still go out to periodically to visit, either just to be around them or pray to them,” said Andrews.


Archaeologists describe the carving as an “engraving with color contrast,” created by removing the exterior coating of the rock that exposes lighter-colored stone underneath.

For archaeologists and members of the tribe, the carvings are much more than just physical representation of the past.

“It’s a very important spiritual and ceremonial artifact in history,” said Greg Haverstock, an archaeologist with Bishop field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).   “It has a very religious value and it’s irreplaceable.”

Haverstock said if the thieves try to sell the artifacts, each piece could run anywhere from $500 to $1,500. He said that even if the carvings were recovered, it would be nearly impossible to restore them.

“It’s more than the actual motifs they stole, but also in the process of stealing them they scarred and damaged the surrounding petroglyphs.” said Haverstock. “There’s no way that you could properly restore it.”

As a result, authorities have ramped up security in the region and the BLM is now offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrests. Under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act, those convicted with theft and vandalism could face a $20,000 fine and five years imprisonment.

“It’s not only Native American history but it’s everybody’s history,” said Andrews. “Now nobody’s grandchildren are going to be able to enjoy those because now they’re gone. Hopefully they’ll come back.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stolen Matisse Painting Reportedly Recovered After Almost a Decade

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- A $3 million missing Matisse painting that had been stolen nearly 10 years ago and swapped for a fake at a Venezuelan museum has reportedly been recovered by FBI agents posing as art collectors at the Loews Hotel in Miami Beach.

A man and a woman allegedly tried to sell Henri Matisse’s 1925 "Odalisque in Red Pants" to undercover agents for $1.5 million, reported ABC’s Miami affiliate WPLG.

James Marshall, spokesman for the FBI’s Miami division, said he could, “neither confirm nor deny information on this matter at this time.”

The original painting of the dark-haired woman kneeling topless in red pants had been on display at the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum in Caracas since 1981, save when it was loaned to a Spanish exhibition in 1997, WPLG reported.

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But an email correspondence in 2002 between the museum’s director, Rita Salvestrini, and Miami art collector Genaro Ambrosino regarding a rumor that the painting was for sale led to the realization that the Matisse hanging in the museum was a forgery.

“The person who made the fake is quite intelligent,” said Todd Cronan, a professor of art history at Emory University in Atlanta.

Cronan said that what made the counterfeit different from the original was the shadow on the woman’s left arm.

“It merges the body with the background,” he said. “That’s something Matisse refused to do in this period.”

Even though critics are divided over Matisse’s works in the 1920s, which has resulted in their sometimes being priced lower than some of his other paintings, Cronan said that the $1.5 million asking price for “Odalisque in Red Pants” was very low.

An administrator at the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum confirmed to ABC News that the painting had been stolen, but for security reasons, would not provide more information about the investigation.

The Caracas newspaper El Mundo speculated that the Matisse may have been swapped during the 1997 Spanish exhibition loan.

In 2004, the FBI created the Art Crime Team, which works with foreign law enforcement officials and the FBI’s legal attache offices in art-related investigations.

The specialized unit has recovered more than 2,500 items valued at more than $150 million since its inception.

According to the FBI’s National Stolen Art File, this is not the first Matisse work to have been reported stolen. The artist’s 1905 painting “Luxembourg Garden” has yet to be recovered.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Caught on Tape: Man Steals Salvador Dali Painting Worth $150K

Thinkstock/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Police are looking for a man who swiped a $150,000 Salvador Dali painting from a New York City art gallery.

Police say the man walked into the Venus Over Manhattan gallery on Tuesday, posing as a customer.  The thief removed the 1949 ink painting from the wall, put it in his bag and fled out the door.  He was wearing a black and white checkered shirt and jeans.

The stolen painting is titled “Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio.”

Anyone with information on the suspect is urged to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pablo Picasso Painting Vandalized at Houston Museum

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Police are using security and cellphone video to locate a man who vandalized Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, “Woman in a Red Armchair,” at a museum in Houston.

A fellow museum patron’s cellphone camera caught the moment when a man at Houston’s Menil Collection, which hosts nine Picassos, vandalized the 1929 painting.  The painting was doused with gold spray paint in the image of a bull and the word “conquista,” according to police, who said the vandal then fled.

Museum officials say the crime occurred last week.

The museum staff houses a conservation lab on site and workers are racing to clean the painting.  Museum spokesman Vance Muse told the Houston Chronicle that “repair work began immediately” and that the painting “has an excellent prognosis.”

The museum was unable to estimate the painting’s worth, but similar Picassos have sold for tens of millions of dollars.  No arrests have been made.

Anyone who witnessed the attack or has information is asked to call (713) 308-0900.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Agents Find Guns, No Art at Alleged Gangster's Connecticut Home

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- None of the priceless masterpieces from a record art heist were found Thursday in a search by the FBI on the property of an alleged mobster, according to his attorney.

Authorities conducted the search Thursday on the property of Robert Gentile, 75, who was arrested in February on federal drug charges. The warrant allowed ground-penetrating radar to be used so agents could search for weapons, said A. Ryan McGuigan, Gentile's attorney. The search Thursday yielded two guns.

"Nobody cares about [the guns]. What they were looking for was stolen art," McGuigan told ABC News at the end of the day.

The search warrant marked the second time the FBI had searched Gentile's property. Both warrants were for weapons, McGuigan said, because the statute of limitations on the art theft case had expired.

Among the masterpieces stolen more than 20 years ago were works by Degas and Rembrandt.

The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment Thursday on the search or what connection Gentile could have to the heist.

Gentile was arrested on federal drug charges after he allegedly sold prescription drugs to an undercover agent. McGuigan said he believes it was a ruse to allow authorities to search Gentile's home, because the statute of limitations on the art heist had expired.

The heist has remained at the top of the list of the FBI's Art Recovery Squad. The works are worth an estimated half a billion dollars, making it the largest art theft in history, according to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Twenty-two years later, empty frames continue to hang in the museum as placeholders for the works the museum hopes will one day be returned.

Gentile pleaded not guilty to federal weapon and gun charges last month and is being held without bond.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


$500M Art Heist: Agents Search Mobster's Home

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Law enforcement agents are digging in the yard of an alleged mobster who authorities believe may have information regarding an unsolved $500 million art heist that reads like a movie plot.

Among the masterpieces stolen more than 20 years ago were works by Degas and Rembrandt.

Authorities conducted a search Thursday on the property of Robert Gentile, 75, who was arrested earlier this year on federal drug charges. The warrant allowed ground penetrating radar to be used so agents could search for weapons, said A. Ryan McGuigan, Gentile's attorney.

"Realistically are they looking for guns? No, they're looking for the art [in his yard]," McGuigan said, pointing out that any sort of metal would suffer from corrosion underground.

The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the search or what connection Gentile could have to the heist.

Gentile pleaded not guilty to federal weapon and gun charges last month and is being held without bond.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A Denver Mailbox Love Story: Art or Graffiti?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- For cynics, it’s graffiti. But for the hopeless romantics, it’s art. Mailbox love, ya'll!

“There is a love affair in our neighborhood,” wrote Jasmine Cann on, the blog she and her husband, Derek Cann, created.

“It is not your typical romance, but it is simple yet messy, the way most romances tend to be. The star-crossed lovers are … well, they are a pair of U.S. postal mailboxes.”

The love affair takes place in Denver, Colo., and began in December 2010 with the first messages -- the eyelash-clad blue mailbox gazing at the larger green mailbox with a smile and the message, “[heart] u” painted in white. The green mailbox smiled back with the message, “[heart] u too.”


The mailboxes are even leaning toward each other, as if enjoying a quiet moment of affection. That is probably cute enough to melt the heart of the coldest bureaucrat, no?

One day, when Jasmine walked by the beloved mailboxes situated just a few blocks from her home, she immediately noticed that something was terribly wrong.

“Someone had painted over my cheery metal twosome and I was upset,” she wrote. “Why would anybody want to paint over something as inoffensive as a humorous display of love?”

The Canns discovered that city officials were untouched by the postal love affair, and painted over the "graffiti." But a week later, the postal receptacles were smiling again, this time with the messages “Missed u” and “Missed u too” painted on.

The battle has continued over the past few months, back and forth, with neither side deterred. The city paints over the mailboxes and, every time, the messages come back. Others have included “I’m here” and “I’m here too!” as well as “They can never” and “Tear us apart” painted on with hearts.

“For us, it’s graffiti, and if we see it, we’re going to call the maintenance guys to come paint over it,” said Chris Stroup, station manager for the Capitol Hill U.S. Postal Service office, according to the Denver Post.

The Canns hope the anonymous artist will persist and keep the romance alive.

“I am enthralled by love, art, and humor,” Jasmine Cann wrote. “Bring it on Mailbox Love Bandit the public needs as much humanity and funny as possible.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Stolen Rembrandt Recovered at California Church

Comstock/Thinkstock(ENCINO, Calif.) -- A 17th century Rembrandt sketch swiped from a luxury hotel in Marina del Ray, Calif., has been recovered at a nearby church by police acting on an anonymous tip.

The 11-by-6-inch sketch was found on church grounds in Encino just early Tuesday morning, police said. Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told ABC News that investigators had received an anonymous call with a tip about the location of the drawing late Monday evening.

"The reason why this tip was called into us was because they saw all the coverage. They saw it, and then they remembered seeing this in a church in Encino," said Whitmore in a televised press conference on Tuesday.

Whitmore added that the piece has been verified as the original by the Linearis Institute, a luxury art collector group that sponsored the exhibit from which the piece had been filched.

No suspects have been arrested.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office had said that they suspected the case was a "well-thought and well-planned theft."

The theft occurred at the exhibit while a supervising curator was "distracted by another person," investigators said in a statement. The curator, whose name has not been publicly released, has not been charged in connection with the theft, said Whitmore.

"The good news is that we have recovered the object that had been reported stolen. It is in our evidence locker, and we'll be dusting it for fingerprints as part of an exacting forensic examination and will lead us to the next step in our investigation," said Whitmore.

The quill pen and ink drawing by master artist Rembrandt van Rijin -- titled "The Judgment" -- was reported stolen from the art exhibit held in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey last weekend. The sketch, dated circa 1655, has been valued at more than $250,000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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