As a follow up to my recent July 7th blog "THIS JUST IN"....
So a man walks by a restaurant with a Picasso...
Yeah, for real.
Turns out -- police say that man had a mini-gallery up and running -- his living room.
Alleged thief Mark Lugo was arrested July 6th after getting caught -- on camera -- holding the “Tete de Femme” a Picasso sketch worth $200,000 dollars stolen from the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco. But what investigators found in his apartment Tuesday was even more shocking.
“A police raid on his Hoboken apartment in the early hours of Tuesday unearthed a trove of art worth up to half a million dollars. Eleven works -- five from New York City galleries and six from hotels…” (The Bay Citizen)
Apparently Lugo hung all eleven paintings around his apartment -- saving the best spot for the Picasso.
"Hoboken Detective Sgt. Edwin Pantoja said the Picasso was hung in the living room of Lugo's apartmentin a prominent spot … Pantoja said it didn’t look like the stolen art was meant to be sold, but rather to be displayed.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
The man who helped police track down Lugo was just a few doors down from the museum. The business owner had installed security cameras -- went through the tape on his own and boom -- found the suspected thief.
“They call him the sockless preppy Picasso thief. … I figured just get the time. And start looking through the video. It only took five minutes to find him. … Look at that guy he’s walking by with the Picasso.” (NBC / KNTV)
According to the Associated Press -- Lugo is also charged with stealing 6,000 worth of wine from a New Jersey wine store back in April.
The Sun Newspaper reports that the 25-year-old singer - who is well known for her eccentric tastes - is obsessed with the British TV show where people bring in their valuables to find out their value, and friends have now bought her a DVD box set of classic episodes so she can watch them on the road.
A source told The Sun newspaper: "Lady Gaga is really into her antiques so British pals thought she might be interested in the program. She loves how the old people think their antique is a bit of old rubbish but ends up costing thousands. It's right up her street."
The 'Judas' hitmaker herself has some expensive items in her own closet. It is rumored that she was given a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the MGM 1939 movie 'The Wizard of Oz' as a present from her management earlier this year.
There are only a few authentic examples known to exist - one pair sold at auction for $666,000, and one pair is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian. Another pair, known as the "Arabian Ruby Slippers” from The Wizard of Oz, covered with red sequins and beads and lined with red silk, were designed for Judy Garland as “Dorothy” but not screen-used. The Arabian shoes were seen in wardrobe test photos from The Wizard of Oz. Those shoes just sold for 510,000.00 USD+ (117,300.00) buyer's premium at Debbie Reynold's auction on June 18, 2011.
Pablo Picasso's Tete de Femme pencil drawing (left) was snatched from Weinstein Art Gallery in San Francisco. A video camera snapshot shows a man who appears to walk with a painting in his arms (right)
Art crime is a $6-billion-a-year business. It ranks fourth in crime, after drugs, money laundering, and illegal arms. Ten percent of stolen art is from art galleries and museums. Last year, five paintings by Picasso, Matisse and several other prominent artists were stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The most recent statistic is a pencil drawing by Pablo Picasso which was stolen from the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco on July 5, 2011, in a brazen midday theft.
Investigators report that a man entered the Weinstein Gallery, plucked the Picasso 1965 pencil drawing “Tet de Femme (Head of a Woman)” off the wall and then walked out to the street, hailed a taxi and fled. Authorities said that the thief is a well-dressed man, aged around 30, wearing a dark jacket, white shirt, light pants, loafers without socks and black glasses.
Although estimated at $200,000, the piece will be difficult to resell, as legitimate collectors won't touch it. Gallery President Rowland Weinstein said that although the work is insured, he is most worried about preserving the art itself. He is quoted as saying, "My greatest fear is that the person will realize it's unsellable and will dispose of it in a less-than-proper manner."
Philadelphia, PA—On June 13, 2011, a dozen participants and I arrived in Philadelphia for the first ever Art Crime Investigation Seminar, conducted by former FBI Special Agent, and real Indiana Jones, Robert Wittman. The week, consisting of five days of instruction and discussion with field experts and industry leaders, was a one-of-a-kind seminar in which each participant personally interacted with the material and presenters. The result was a seminar described by participants as unmatched in the quality of topics, expert presentations, and atmosphere. The topics covered a diverse array of contemporary issues ranging from international art crime investigation, collection security, art title law, the role of conservation and forensic techniques, art databases, art insurance, and the importance of protecting and saving antiquities.
Because of the diversity in the seminar’s content, participants were encouraged to think about their goals in the greater context of the art industry. Participants responded positively to the unique approach, agreeing that the “issues covered in the course were of prime importance to understanding the complexities of the art world” and that “the training design and presentations well represented the parameters of the field.”
There is perhaps no better way to convey the quality of the seminar than by the participants themselves. One stated that, “To be able to study and be educated by the numerous high quality, top notch professionals of their fields was a dream come true. What continually became apparent to me was our ability, as a group, to unite and blend our knowledge and create new questions and observations; to work together to achieve a clearer understanding of the vast topics which we may encounter in the future. Our interactions with the presented scenarios were paramount to bringing about a deeper understanding of the world of art crime to each of us."
Caroline Ashleigh and the Fishers in front of perhaps the most famous dress in the world, Marilyn Monroe's "subway dress" from the Seven Year Itch
Marilyn Monroe - Perhaps the most famous movie star in recent memory - and her famous white dress from the Seven Year Itch, shown in background of this photograph - is considered to be one of the greatest movie costume icons of all time. I had the privilege of appraising this dress, among many others at Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood Motion Picture Collection Museum, on Antiques Roadshow, FYI.
On June 18th, Reynolds was in tears when, after 20 minutes of drama, the gavel sounded an end to bidding with the price at $4.6 million to an unidentified telephone bidder.
As for Monroe, she would have been shocked to know her dress would sell for so much. She only had $2,000 in her bank account at the time of her death.
The iconic dress: Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” ivory pleated “Subway” dress by Travilla, the most recognized costume in film history, from The Seven Year Itch. (TCF, 1955) Ivory rayon-acetate halter dress with pleated skirt. Handwritten label “1-27-1-8171 M. Monroe A-734-12.” Worn by Marilyn Monroe as “The Girl” in one of the most iconic images of film history in The Seven Year Itch, when she stood above the subway grate and uttered that famous line, “OOOH isn’t it delicious?” The Seven Year Itch storyline, unlike some of Monroe’s earlier films, held no promise as a costume showcase. It was not a period piece and had no dance routines. Yet this was to become the vehicle for Travilla’s most famous dress design, in bias-cut crepe with a halter top and sunburst pleats. “So I wondered what could I do with this most beautiful girl that Marilyn was to play to make her look clean, talcum-powdered, and adorable,” Travilla mused. “What would I give her to wear that would blow in the breeze and be fun and pretty? I knew there would be a wind blowing so that would require a skirt.” [Hollywood Costume Design by Travilla, Maureen Reilly]. The fabric Travilla chose was an ivory colored rayon-acetate crepe, heavy enough to flow beautifully as Marilyn walked but still light enough to blow up in an interesting way. A fabric very hard if not impossible to get now, the closest is georgette. Travilla never normally used man-made fabric but this posed a challenge with pleating as 100% natural fabric would not hold such stiff pleats, so for all his pleated creations a special fabric had to be made with just a small amount of man-made fiber in it to maintain the structure. Acquired by Debbie Reynolds directly from Twentieth Century-Fox during the “pre-sale” when she bought all of the Marilyn Monroe wardrobe from the studio prior to the auction in 1971.
If Steve Martin, Robert De Niro, and Steven Spielberg can be had, so can you.
The Hollywood legends have each been a victim of art scams - Martin, most recently, as part of a giant art scandal unfolding in Germany.
The star paid $850,000 for what he believed was a 1915 painting by German expressionist Heinrich Campendonk. The actor-comedian told the New York Times that even experts were fooled - "the fakers were quite clever."
"With art, it's like the Wild West out there, totally unregulated, buyer beware," said the founder of the FBI Art Crime Team and colleague, Robert K. Wittman, now a Philadelphia art-security consultant. "You've got to protect yourself."
During his 20-year FBI career, Wittman was best known for rescuing stolen Rembrandts, Rodins, and Rockwells, but he also investigated several major scams - most notable, the Antiques Roadshow television scandal hatched by con artist Russell Pritchard III.
"Here was a guy who did appraisals on PBS - what could be more authentic than that?" says Wittman, who recounts the full Antiques Roadshow case in a chapter of his New York Times best-selling memoir Priceless, which is out in paperback this week.
Wittman reserves particular contempt for dealers who peddle bogus antiques: When the author was growing up, his father was one of a cadre of Baltimore antiques merchants "working to make a living on small margins."
When buying art, antiques, or jewelry, Wittman says, it's often more important to scrutinize the dealer than the piece you are considering. Does he or she have a proven track record? "It's a lot like buying a car from a dealer," Wittman says.
Some companies also offer art title insurance, similar to property title insurance. "Some art costs as much as a house, so it's ridiculous not to consider this," he says.
Other considerations: Can the dealer produce a provenance that can be independently verified? Is the dealer willing to offer a written lifetime guarantee that the work is authentic?
Wittman concedes anyone can be scammed. Years ago, he bought a handful of purported Civil War belt buckles at a market.
"Deep down, I knew they were way too cheap, but I took a flier, thinking, 'Who knows?' " Wittman says. "To this day, I keep them in my drawer to remind me that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
On Wednesday, June 8, FBI Art Crime Team founder Robert K. Wittman will appear with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter John Shiffman, with whom he wrote his memoir, "Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures." Check back on my blog and twitter to hear more about the interview:
In our modern culture and society, clothes are far more than a physical covering to protect the body from the elements; they can reveal much about a person. An evening gown, a doctor's white coat, cowboy boots—today these can all be clues to social status, profession, or geographic origin.
In the Middle Ages, clothing was integral to identifying one's place in the world. Medieval people were highly skilled at reading the meaning of fashion, which is reflected throughout the painted pages of illuminated manuscripts.
Themes in the Getty exhibition range from the extravagant cost of clothing worn by the elite, to styles and fabrics permitted by custom and law, to the inventiveness that embellishes historical depictions of fashion.
While at times containing fanciful or idealized images of clothing, manuscript illuminations, such as the image above, often reflect the actual styles and fabrics of the Middle Ages, as well as the economic factors behind them.
For the medieval viewer, color and material provided essential information about the social status of the figures on the page. For example, scholars wore red robes that carried the additional prestige associated with the high cost of crimson dye. Only Kings were permitted to wear crimson shoes.
Peasants wore cheap, undyed wool in shades of brown and gray. Such distinctions offer valuable insights into the world of medieval fashion.
Manuscript illuminators used costume to help place figures in the strict social hierarchy of the Middle Ages and to identify people by profession. Monks, doctors, lawyers, knights, scholars, queens, and courtiers could all be recognized at a glance by their distinctive clothing.
The Smithsonian's new national black museum, charged with interpreting and preserving the black experience, hasn't integrated Washington, D.C.'s whitest address yet, and it's already dodging spitballs from Congress.
The new museum will fight for scarce public and private resources and respect. It will fight for collections that could arguably belong to other "mainstream" institutions. It will battle the stubborn questions, from black people and white people alike, about why history must be segregated. As it is, historians have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to fully documenting the black experience. For centuries, black historic documents and artifacts have been largely discarded or passed down to descendents and often lost to history.
These new exhibits on slavery would be nestled between two sacred white memorials to founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson -- both slaveholders, and erected within sight of locations where slave pens stood during the 1850s and the early years of the Civil War. Awkward?!
Moving on to the Mall might well be awkward and sometimes hostile. But a true, comprehensive, warts-and-all account of how America came to be demands it. If it cares about telling the truth about itself, Congress should fully support this enterprise, at any cost.
Writing in 1998, nearly two decades before the dream of a black museum was scheduled to come to life in 2015, cultural historian Fath Davis Ruffins put it best:
We know the name of King, but we do not know the names of all the others who were murdered trying to vote in the South, or the millions of Native Americans who were killed for their lands, or the millions who were caught up in the bloody maw of the Third Reich. To remember them, all nations build memorials and sometimes even museums.
If you build them, will they come? Share your thoughts with me at
Will the model for Da Vinci's masterpiece soon be discovered, as the Mona Lisa mystery continues to unfold?
Louvre Museum, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
The mysterious face of the Mona Lisa may be lying under a few feet of cement in a convent in Florence, Italy. Researchers are currently searching for the bones of what might turn out to be Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, the woman many art historians believe to be the inspiration of the iconic painting.
The research team is continuing to excavate the area for possible bones. If they find enough skull bones, Francesco Mallegni, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Pisa, will attempt to reconstruct Gherardini's face, providing extra clues to who was really the subject of the painting.
Although the excavation is still just in the beginning phase, within a week of work researchers should be able to get a better understanding of the situation.
They will also test the genetic material of the bones and compare it to DNA from Gherardini's children, who are buried in Florence's Santissima Annunziata church. This would prove that the bones found at the convent were actually hers.
For more hidden secrets of the Mona Lisa, please read my blog post:
The Eyes Have It: More Mystery Unfolds in the Mona Lisa
Marvin Gaye Exhibit Opens At Detroit Motown Museum
The Detroit museum, located in the original home of Motown Records Corp., has unveiled an exhibit chronicling the legendary artist's two decades at Motown, from 1960 to 1982. The exhibit in the second-floor gallery opened Friday and runs through at least September.
It's the first time the museum has produced a major exhibit on Gaye, and follows a successful installation on the Jackson 5 last year that marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson.
The largely chronological exhibit features Gaye's album covers, sheet music, costumes from concerts and even a Marvin Gaye Way street sign from Washington, D.C., the hometown of the man born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. in 1939 and fatally shot by his father in 1984 after a violent argument.
The display spans the career of a man who helped create, refine and redefine the sound of the label and popular music itself, including playing piano and drums on "Please Mister Postman," singing the chart-topping smash "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," and tackling political and environmental concerns with "What's Going On" and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)."
The exhibit includes an early single by Gaye on Motown's subsidiary label, Anna, named for Motown founder Berry Gordy's sister - the woman who became Gaye's first wife. He was still married to Anna Gordy Gaye in 1973 when he met Janis Gaye, who was 17 at the time and is now 55.
Janis Gaye said she is writing a book about her life with the man she describes as her "dear, sweet ex-husband" that's expected to be released later this year.
"We must have broken up and gotten back together at least 20 or 30 times," she said. "It was a magical time, at times. ... There are many, many memories to look back on - some fond, some not so fond."
She said she hopes museum visitors see the depth of his creativity and recognize his enduring legacy, which includes a performance next May of the What's Going On album by John Legend and The Roots with the National Symphony Orchestra. It marks the 40th anniversary of Gaye performing the album at the same venue.
"I would just like for people to see his whole body of work," Janis Gaye said. "Socially conscious, sexually conscious, whatever it happens to be. It's all Marvin. It all came from that one mind."