YALE MUSEUM INVESTIGATES POSSIBLE NAZI LOOT LOAN
The Yale University Art Museum is finding itself in a sticky situation after claims that a collection of 17 Old Master works on loan to the museum since 1981 -- and a potential donation -- come from a collector who was involved with the Nazi party before World War II, according to a report in the Boston Globe. Yale officials say that they were unaware that collector Herbert Schaefer had been a Nazi storm trooper in the early 1930s, joined the Nazi party in 1937 and represented other Nazis and armament manufacturers as a wartime lawyer.
The issue was brought to light after Eric Weinmann, his sister and nephew presented a formal claim to Yale last October asserting that Weinmann's mother had been forced to leave behind Gustave Courbet's Le Grand Pont -- the centerpiece of Schaefer's collection -- when she fled Berlin in 1938, the year Schaefer says he bought the painting. Eric Weinmann adds that his mother had herself bought the painting without knowing that its previous owner had been another Jew forced by Nazis to sell her collection.
Schaefer denies the charges, saying he bought the painting legitimately, despite the fact that he had been a legal intern at the time whose annual salary would have been a fraction of the 17,000 Reichsmarks the painting fetched at auction in 1935. Yale also affirms to have been unaware that the collector had used his Swedish housekeeper to try to smuggle the Courbet and two other paintings out of Berlin to Sweden after the war, only to be stopped by British soldiers at a checkpoint. The museum says it is now investigating the claims.
SERRANO PICS LAND CHRISTIE'S IN HOT WATER Scotland Yard is investigating the upcoming Feb. 9 contemporary art sale at Christie's London, and for a change the problem is not the seemingly unending price-fixing scandal. At issue this time are three photographs from artist Andres Serrano's controversial 1996 "History of Sex" series, according to the London Telegraph. The authorities seem particularly disturbed by The Fisting (est. £4,500-£5,500), which shows a woman penetrating a man with her fist. "The reason why this particular sex act is regarded as obscene is because of the violent nature of the act. It is right on the edge -- basically it's where the line is drawn," huffs inspector Graham Ward, head of Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Unit, adding that the unit plans to visit the auction house to judge whether the exhibition warrants prosecution.
Christie's has withdrawn the images from its website, which still features risqué pictures by Vanessa Beecroft, Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans. If you want to see what the fuss is all about, check out Paul H-O's 1997 review of Serrano's "History of Sex" exhibition at Paula Cooper. Hint: We feature the images.
BOMB THREAT AT THE LOUVRE
The Louvre Museum in Paris received a bomb threat from an unidentified caller the morning of Jan. 21, leading to the evacuation of some 4,000 visitors, according to press reports. Police with trained dogs found nothing suspicious and the museum was reopened to the public after two hours.
FORGERY MASTERMIND FINED £125,000 John Drewe, the mastermind behind the forgery of some 200 works of art produced by frustrated artist John Myatt, has been ordered to pay £125,000 of his profits, a fraction of the £1 million he is estimated to have bilked from art-world victims, reports the London Telegraph. The amount is so low because it only relates to five paintings that were the subject of criminal proceedings, yet Drewe says he should only have to pay £24,000 because of commissions he paid to the runners who sold the fakes. Drewe created havoc in the art world from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s by forging declarations of authenticity and doctoring one-of-a-kind documents for works in the style of Braque, Giacometti, Le Corbusier, Matisse and others. To this day, less than half of the bogus pieces have been taken out of circulation. Meanwhile, Michael Douglas is set to star in and produce a film based on the fraud, according to Variety.
PHILIPPINE ART COLLECTION VANISHES
A collection of art belonging to the Philippines worth millions has disappeared from the presidential palace in Manila after the flight of ousted president Joseph Estrada, according to press reports. The collection, which includes 27 paintings by American folk artist Grandma Moses as well as Italian Renaissance marble carvings, had been amassed by disgraced first lady Imelda Marcos during the previous administration. Estrada faces a number of criminal charges including bribery, corruption and plunder of state funds. "If they don't give [the collection] back, well, I guess they'll have to face another case," said new chief of staff Renate Corona.
KHALILI COLLECTION EXHIBITION PULLED FROM BARD
The exhibition "Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection" scheduled to be shown at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts in April, has been canceled without official explanation. Bard Center director of external affairs Tim Mulligan tells Artnet Magazine he believes the Khalili Family Trust called off the loan due to questions from the Turkish government regarding a Koran in the exhibition, but added that he was not sure of the details. A spokesperson for Art Services International, which organized and circulates the show, had no comment, stating only that "Bard no longer wanted to participate and we had to abide by that decision." The Khalili Family Trust was unavailable for comment by deadline time. The show is going on as scheduled at the Portland Art Museum, Jan. 27-April 8.
MISCELLANEA Art in General and the Drawing Center are presenting "Art from Cuba: Chago, Tonel and Their Contemporaries," a panel on contemporary art in Cuba, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at the Drawing Center in SoHo. The panel is being held in conjunction with the exhibitions of Tonel at Art in General and Chago at the Drawing Center; Tonel is taking part in the talk.
Dieu Donné, a New York nonprofit dedicated to advancing the art of hand papermaking, has moved its paper and papermaking supplies store to cyberspace to make more room for artists projects at its physical location.