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BUST - The Week in Art True Crime: From Mona Lisa Thieves to Nazi Looters




The week in Art True Crime

Art and crime have a long and complex history, often intertwined in fascinating and mysterious, and more often deplorable ways. Whether it is the theft of priceless masterpieces, the forgery of ancient artifacts, or the destruction of cultural heritage, art crime affects not only the artists and collectors, but also the society and the history that they represent. In this weekly summary, we will explore some of the week's most recent and notable cases of art true crime, and how they reveal the challenges and opportunities of preserving and restoring the world’s artistic treasures.


In Books:


Noah Charney, the BBC Presenter, whom when I pronounce too quickly, people ask me did you say “No-Attorney?” which is only fitting since he is known known for his art crime books, has just released yet another.  This newest book, already reviewed in The New York Times Books, shines light on another icon of the art world – The Mona Lisa—as well as her many thieves. The book titled “The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: The Complete Story of the World’s Most Famous Artwork” is available now at amazon.com.


In Arrests:

A third suspect remains on the loose after two suspects were arrested by NYPD for stealing a print Eve (1971) by Marc Chagall from a New York City gallery and police have recovered and returned the work. The lithograph by Marc Chagall was stolen from a New York gallery by three thieves in September 2023. The gallery owner claims the print was worth $100,000, but some sources suggested it was much less valuable. Carlton Smith, 59, and 61-year-old Larry Nestman were arrested in December as suspects in the smash-and-grab heist.


In Film:

The movie #MonumentsMen came out ten years ago and told the story of the brave men and women who saved art and culture from the Nazis. It was a huge success and was screened in over a hundred countries, raising awareness about the Monuments Men and Women Foundation and their mission. A lot has changed since then. The army now has its own Monuments officers; more and more people are studying and discussing how to trace and restore stolen art; many cultural treasures have been given back to their original owners; and the fate of cultural heritage has become a hot topic in the media. For the first time in 70 years, people care about and talk about preserving culture like never before.


In Conferences:

PAIAM Members hosted Association of Women in the Arts (Awita) on roundtable discussions on key industry issues involving anti-money laundering, artificial intelligence, art market trends and VAT.


In Repatriation:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is said to be set to repatriate the Hindu statue of the deity Shiva “Golden Boy” as well as a kneeling female figure to Thailand in an announcement that is a part of their pledge to return artwork to Thailand and Cambodia.


In the Courts:

A February 11th Forbes reads “Transparency is Top of Mind for New Era at Sotheby’s.  Time will tell. The article references the “Bouvier Affair”, a long-running legal battle, involves Swiss art shipper and dealer Yves Bouvier. The lawsuits allege that Bouvier defrauded clients by misrepresenting the original cost of artworks and subsequently overcharging them. Bouvier’s relationship with Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev began in 2002 when Bouvier helped him acquire 37 masterpieces from renowned artists. However, their collaboration soured when Rybolovlev discovered Bouvier’s excessive profits beyond the agreed commission. Despite legal efforts across various jurisdictions, Bouvier has not been found guilty of fraud. Recently, Rybolovlev sought justice through Sotheby’s auction house, implicating them in Bouvier’s actions. However, the defense successfully argued that Sotheby’s could not be held accountable for Bouvier’s private sales connection. DAN (Daily Art News) Reports that Sotheby’s has unveiled a revolutionary fee structure to bring “clarity and fairness” to the art market which is Art Legal’s main initiative we have been calling for sense 2021.

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