Sotheby’s Cleared in Rybolovlev Feud, Mafia-Looted Opie Painting Returned, and ‘Sleeper’ Guercino Portrait Acquired, and More: Morning Links for January 31, 2024 - The World News

Sotheby’s Cleared in Rybolovlev Feud, Mafia-Looted Opie Painting Returned, and ‘Sleeper’ Guercino Portrait Acquired, and More: Morning Links for January 31, 2024

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The Headlines

ART FEUD FINALE. Sotheby’s was cleared Tuesday of claims they helped Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier defraud Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, marking an end to one of the art world’s longest and most widely covered feuds, reports ARTnews Senior Writer Daniel Cassady. The jury delivered their conclusions after five hours of deliberations examining whether Sotheby’s head of private sales, Samuel Valette , knowingly altered prices for his client, Bouvier, to justify price gauging artworks flipped to Rybolovlev. Ultimately, the jury did not find “clear and convincing evidence” that Valette or others at the auction house knew about Bouvier’s alleged manipulative tactics. However, despite winning the case, the trial laid bare much of Sotheby’s opaque business practices.

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Two people holding up a partially shredded painting of a girl looking at a heart-shaped balloon.

MAFIA LOOT FOUND. A “priceless” neoclassical John Opie painting was recovered after it was stolen by a mafia in Newark, New Jersey in 1969. The painting, titled The Schoolmistress (ca. 1784), was recovered by the FBI after a two-year investigation, and was stolen from a 96-year-old doctor named Francis Wood . The long-missing painting was discovered when the property of an unnamed person deceased in 2020, with no apparent ties to the mafia, was liquidated. One of the suspected mobsters had confessed to the theft in 1975, and said they acted under the direction of the controversial former state senator, Anthony Imperiale, who was never charged, reported Artnet News.

The Digest

The Jacob Rothschild charitable foundation bought a belatedly attributed Guercino portrait of Moses, known as a “sleeper,” for about $2.2 million. The painting was initially auctioned in 2022 as a work by a 17th-century Bolognese follower of Guido Reni, estimated at around $6,000. However, its origin was suspected by professionals, a hunch later confirmed by specialists. [The Art Newspaper]

The Beatles’ only known collective painting is going up for auction at Christie’s in New York on February 1. In 1966, the four musicians painted together and signed the “psychedelic” painting titled Images of a Woman, while stuck in Tokyo’s Hilton Hotel room due to death threats by Japanese nationalists. [BBC]

In other Beatles news, the estate of Stuart Sutcliffe, an original member of the band and an abstract painter, is seeking a buyer for its entire collection. Some 400 paintings, sketches, and drawings, as well as hundreds of letters, photographs and memorabilia are among the objects in the collection. It “promises to be a goldmine for art as much as music historians, if they’ll bit,” writes Min Chen. [Artnet News]

The laboratory of double Nobel-Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie will be taken down and rebuilt “stone by stone,” nearby, announced France’s ministry of culture today. The 1914-designed Pavillion des Sources in Paris’ Curie Institute was nearly demolished earlier this month, to make room for a modern research center. Heritage groups and the former culture minister blocked the wreckage at the last minute. [Liberation]

The space shuttle Endeavour 200 made its final journey, touching down outside the California Science Center in Los Angeles yesterday as crowds gathered to watch. After 25 space voyages, the orbiter will become the centerpiece of the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which is still under construction. It is expected to be displayed in a “ready-to-launch,” position, its nose pointing to the sky, which is rare for museums. [The Los Angeles Times]

A plan to restore one of the Giza pyramids is being slammed by archaeologists, who have compared it to “straightening the Tower of Pisa,” writes ARTnews Associate Editor Tessa Solomon. The already initiated project aims to reconstruct the outer casing of granite on the Pyramid of Menkaure’s four sides. [ARTnews]

The Kicker

A PICTURE PUZZLE. Who is the man behind the Rubik’s CubeErnő Rubik, a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts, never guessed his brightly colored puzzle design, patented in 1975, would become such a best-selling global phenomenon, writes Myles Burke in a portrait for BBC . He conceived of the puzzle as a method for getting his students to think creatively about geometric forms and spatial relationships, using a tool that was tactile, mobile, and simple. “First of all, you must be patient, it’s very useful to solve a problem, then you need some spatial memory, three-dimensional memory,” he explained to the BBC. “To memorize which congregation you are and where the pieces are and so on … If we close our eyes, we know, we remember, and not for a picture only, but the meaning of the picture.” 

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