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Artnet News
Nov. 17, 2005 

In addition to being a booming time for the art market, it is also a booming time for art crime -- which adds up to $6 billion a year, according to Chris Swecker, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has released its list of the 10 most important art theft cases, fruit of the agency’s newly formed Art Crimes Team, set up in November 2004 as a belated response to the disastrous negligence of U.S. forces in Iraq, when the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad was looted immediately after the 2003 invasion.

Accordingly, the list of "FBI Top Ten Art Crimes" is headed by "7,000-10,000 looted and stolen Iraqi artifacts," the wealth of figurines, seals and other ancient artifacts taken from Iraqi cultural institutions during March and April of 2003. The rest of the top ten includes:

* 12 paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 in what has been called the biggest art robbery in history, a haul worth an estimated $300 million. The loot includes Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and works by Vermeer, Manet and Degas.

* Edvard Munch's iconic The Scream, still MIA from Oslo’s Munch Museum after being spirited away by gunmen, along with his Madonna, in 2004.

* Paul Cezanne's $3-million View of Auvers-sur-Oise, stolen from Oxford's Ashmolean Museum during millennium fireworks celebrations on New Year's Eve in 1999.

* Two paintings by Vincent van Gogh -- View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen -- valued at $30 million, pilfered by burglars who broke in through the roof of Amsterdam's Vincent van Gogh Museum in 2002.

* Leonardo da Vinci's $65-million Madonna with the Yarnwinder, stolen in 2003 when two thieves posing as tourists overpowered a young guide on a tour at Scotland's Drumlanrig Castle.   

* Benevenuto Cellini’s famous Poseidon Salt Cellar, taken from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum in 2003 by a thief who entered through a first-floor window.

* Michelangelo de Caravaggio's Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco, taken from its frame in the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo by two intruders in 1969.

* The $3-million Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius, a 1727 violin by the legendary Antonio Stradivari, disappeared from a New York apartment in 1995.

So far, none of the stolen items have appeared in the collection of the Getty Museum, but keep your eyes peeled.

Last week, the Boston fire marshal shut down the solo show by Thomas Hirschhorn at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. Called "Utopia, Utopia = One World, One War, One Army, One Dress," Sept. 21, 2005-Jan. 16, 2006, the show is two floors of densely packed stuff, all in camouflage -- linoleum on the floor, cardboard on the walls, mobiles from the ceilings, mannequins, toys and hand-written notes and slogans. Apparently the question was one of density -- the fire department demands fairly clear pathways to exits in public buildings. The ICA has had a safety expert make adjustments to the installation, in consultation with the artist, and hopes to get an official okay to reopen the show soon. In the meantime, admission to the accompanying "Momentum" show of work by Paul Chan is free.

Just in time for the Art Basel Miami Beach festivities, the new Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) opens a new art space in Miami, located at 1018 North Miami Avenue in a 1936 warehouse rehabbed by architect Rene Gonzalez, who has done up the façade in colored glass tiles to depict a bamboo jungle. The inaugural exhibitions, drawn from the collection of CIFO founder Ella Fontanals Cisneros (who also established Miami Art Central in 2001), are "Indeterminate States: Video in the Ella Fontanals Cisneros Collection," organized by Michael Rush, and "Beyond Delirious: Architecture in Selected Photographs from the Ella Fontanals Cisneros Collection," organized by Christopher Phillips. CIFO also plans exhibitions of emerging artists and CIFO’s own artist-in-residence program. The foundation is directed by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, a British-Venezuelan art historian and curator who was formerly director of the Sala Mendoza alternative space in Caracas (1997-2001). The space is open on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 am-4 pm, and by appointment. For more details, see

The Santa Monica Museum of Art is hosting a special "fire sale raffle and party" to help raise funds for artist Joe Goode, who suffered a devastating studio fire this past summer. Slated for Dec. 15, 2005, the event takes place at the museum; tickets are $200, and each winning ticket gets four works of art. Among the many artists who have donated works to the cause are Marina Abramovic, Chuck Arnoldi, George Condo, Robert Graham, Kim McCarty, Raymond Pettibon, Nancy Rubins, Kenny Scharf and Robert Williams. Ticket holders need not be present to win. For details, see

The High Museum of Art in midtown Atlanta opened its 177,000-square-foot, Renzo Piano-designed expansion on Nov. 12, 2005, with "Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic" and "Celebrate Architecture! Renzo Piano & Building Workshop." Critics have complemented the new building for its "impeccable proportions and details" (Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek) and its "sublimely elegant but also practical" interior spaces (Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times). The High, together with the Woodruff Arts Center, has raised $163.9 million it its $178.4 million capital campaign, which includes $109.3 million for the museum expansion, $54.1 million for the Woodruff renovation and $15 million for the High endowment. The museum is also preparing for its forthcoming "Louvre Atlanta" project, which, beginning in 2006, brings a series of long-term special exhibitions of art from the Musée du Louvre.

"Force of Nature: The Art and Activism of Frank Moore," a special panel discussion focusing on the legacy of the late artist and advocate who died of AIDS at age 48 in 2002, is scheduled for 7 pm on Dec. 6, 2005, at the School of Visual Arts at 209 East 23rd Street in Manhattan. The event includes a presentation on Moore’s works by Nick Debs, followed by a discussion moderated bv Amy Sadao, director of Visual AIDS, and including Michael Combs, a sculptor who worked as Moore’s studio assistant; Marc Happel, a costume designer and one of the original members of the artists’ caucus of Visual AIDS; Mary Jo Vath, a painter and SVA faculty member; and Tom Woodruff, a painter and chair of SVA’s illustration and cartooning department. General admission is $10, with the funds going to Visual AIDS Frank Moore Archive Project.

A $100,000 prize for art critics? Now that's something we can get behind -- if they'd stop messing around and ask for our nominations! In the meantime, the Penny McCall Foundation has announced the names of six finalists for the first Ordway Prize, a $100,000 award that goes every two years to 1) a mid-career artist and 2) an arts writer and/or curator. What's more, the losers still get a $7,500 consolation prize. Are you ready for the finalists? The short list in the "art" category is Sam Durant, Senga Nengudi and Doris Salcedo. The short list in the "arts writer and/or curator" category are Dia Art Foundation curator Lynne Cooke, Artforum gossip columnist David Rimanelli and Ralph Rugoff, director of the Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts. Ouch, boy does that hurt! The winners are announced on Dec. 16, 2005.

The Ordway Prize honors Katharine Ordway, the late naturalist and collector who bequeathed her 149-piece collection to Yale University Art Gallery when she died in 1979. Ordway was the great-great aunt of Jennifer McSweeney, the director of the Penny McCall Foundation, which was established in 1987 by her mother, Penny McCall.

For an especially bizarre welcome to the new holiday season, pick up the December issue of Vogue magazine. In a 23-page feature styled by Vogue veteran Grace Coddington and photographed by Annie Leibovitz, several top artists who should have known better participated in a fluffy promotional fashion shoot for the young collagen-lipped movie star Keira Knightley. In the photo spread, Knightley is cast as an unlikely blonde Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, while Alba and Francesco Clemente play Dorothy’s Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, Kara Walker is Glinda the Good Witch, Brice Marden perches on a cross (!) in a cornfield as the Scarecrow, John Currin dresses up as the Tin Man and the notoriously reticent Jasper Johns plays the Cowardly Lion (!!). The cast is rounded out with Chuck Close as the Wizard (complete with his early black-and-white self-portrait with cigarette), Kiki Smith as the Wicked Witch (!!!) and Jeff Koons in brown makeup and batwings as the witch’s wicked monkey.

Vogue’s art fest continues with a line-up of remarkably anti-erotic nudes by Vanessa Beecroft, Jeff Koons, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Prince, Julian Schnabel and Cindy Sherman, works that also go on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash on West 26th Street in Chelsea, Nov. 18-Dec. 23, 2005. For us, the real art in the magazine is the 12-page spread of fashion advertisements from Wal-Mart.

Horace Solomon, 76, co-founder of the Holly Solomon Gallery in 1975 with his late wife, Holly Solomon, and a much-loved figure on the New York art world of the 1970s and ‘80s, died at his home after a long struggle with cancer on Nov. 16. An early fan of Pop Art in the 1960s, Solomon later supported and became close friends with Bill Wegman, Robert Kushner and Gordon Matta-Clark, among other artists. He was appointed development director of the Brooklyn Museum in 1985, a post he held until his retirement in 1992. He was also a pioneer in putting art on videotape, founding the Arts Video News Service in 1988, a subscription-based monthly video service featuring reviews and info on art in New York galleries and museums.

-- contact wrobinson @