Monthly Archives: febrero 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN

En estos tiempos en los que los ladrones de arte escriben sus biografías, son motivo de documentales e incluso de producciones cinematográficas, las historias relacionadas con los robos de arte durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial han llegado también a Hollywood. Así la apenas estrenada The Monument Men es la película que más interés ha despertado sobre el tema. Esto puede ser debido a una curiosa mezcla de publicidad invasiva y descarada (¿Qué hacía un stand de esta película en ARCO?), actores famosos (como George Clooney, Matt Damon y Bill Murray), acción bélica y antinazismo de taquilla, así como una general y creciente simpatía por las intrigas detectivescas alrededor del arte.

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Lt. Dale Ford, left, and Sgt. Ettlinger with the Rembrandt self-portrait from Karlsruhe’s Art Museum.
American Jewish Historical Society

Dadas las circunstancias, esta entrada al blog es para poner en claro lo que, épicas a parte, supuso que 345 hombres y mujeres de 13 países diferentes rescataran miles de obras robadas, amontonadas y guardadas entre 1941 y 1953. Para ello hay un buen artículo en el New York Times que a la vez se refiere a la exhaustiva página web donde vienen recogidas las historias alrededor de estas acciones, así como un listado de quienes fueron esas personas, bibliografía relacionada y demás. Y es que la película de George Clooney está basada en el libro Monuments Men escrito por Robert M. Edsel, un tejano apasionado por este tema que ha sido el impulsor de tan exhaustivo trabajo de documentación y comunicación… En fin, otro día tendríamos que hablar de las miles de obras de arte europeas que se encuentran en Estados Unidos, algunas encargadas a grandes ladrones de guante blanco, como es el ya famoso Erik El Belga.

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Edith A. Standen, left, and Rose Valland in 1946. Credit James J. Rorimer papers,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

The Con Artist en 60 Minutes

Aquí un abstracto del programa ’60 Minutes’ del canal CSB que el domingo 23 de febrero fue dedicado al falsificador Wolfgang Beltracchi, cuyas pinturas son consideradas notables obras de falsificación. Según él mismo explica en el documental, corresponden a sus visiones e intuiciones sobre lo que los grandes pintores pudieron haber hecho o que pudieron haberse perdido. Lo curioso, pues, de este caso no son las “copias” de obras de arte que él llevó a cabo, sino su afirmación de ‘haber canalizado’ al artista para crear nuevas obras que  son atribuidas a tal o cual artista. Cuando se le arrestó en 2010 debido al component químico de uno de los blancos que usó, las casas de subastas que autentificaron sus falsificaciones fueron denunciadas. Y sus expertos ya no se atreven a emitir opiniones de autentificación. Hoy en día Wolfgang Beltracchi pinta bajo su propio nombre para enfrentarse a millones en demandas.

Heinrich Campendonk forge by Wolfgang Beltracchi

Mientrastanto, también se anuncia para el 6 de marzo una película sobre su persona, cuyo trailer ya está en vimeo.

Wolfgang Beltracchi

Y más abajo el script de ‘The Con Artist’ con Bob Simon de conrresponsal y Katherine Davis de productora: Wolfgang Beltracchi is a name you may never have heard before.  Very few people have. But his paintings have brought him millions and millions of dollars in a career that spanned nearly 40 years. They have made their way into museums, galleries, and private collections all over the world.  What makes him a story for us is that all his paintings are fakes. And what makes him an unusual forger is that he didn’t copy the paintings of great artists, but created new works which he imagined the artist might have painted or which might have gotten lost. Connoisseurs and dealers acknowledge that Beltracchi is the most successful art forger of our time — perhaps of all time. Brilliant not only as a painter, but as a conman of epic proportions.

Bob Simon: Are you the best forger in the world?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Maybe, yeah.  In the moment.

He agreed to meet with us in Cologne recently and took us to a small wooden bridge outside his home.  He volunteered to show us how he works. He was forging a Max Ernst, the German surrealist of the early 20th century.  Beltracchi was painting on this wooden bridge because Ernst had done much of his work on a wooden floor.

Bob Simon: I have seen Beltracchi forgeries on the cover of Christie’s catalogues.

Jeff Taylor: Yes, yes.

Bob Simon: That’s pretty good isn’t it?

Jeff Taylor: It is really good, it is really good

Jeff Taylor teaches arts management at Purchase College. He says though there is no shortage of gifted forgers, Beltracchi holds the title. He has made more money than any other art forger ever.

Jeff Taylor: He combined all the nefarious techniques of everybody who came before him and made very important innovations in exactly what is essential.

Bob Simon: You have called him an evil genius?

Jeff Taylor: Yes.

Bob Simon: So aside from being a very talented painter, he was also a very accomplished conman?

Jeff Taylor: Absolutely one of the best.

He started making a few bucks in the game when he was quite young, but his career really took off when he married Helene, a perfect co-conspirator, in 1993.

Bob Simon: You were really the Bonnie and Clyde of the art world, weren’t you?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yes, Bonnie and Clyde, yeah. Without weapons. Only with pencils.

Bob Simon: But you were a pair, you did everything together.

Helene Beltracchi: Yeah.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Everything together, yes, yes.

They invented a story that fooled them all. Helene said her grandfather hid his art collection at his country estate in Germany before the war to protect it from the Nazis.  When he died, she said, she inherited it.  But there was nothing to inherit, because there had never been a collection. Every one of the works had been painted by Wolfgang Beltracchi.

Helene Beltracchi: When I said it’s a collection of my grandfather it was OK.

Bob Simon: It was OK, but it wasn’t true

Helene Beltracchi: No, it wasn’t true.  But the others – never asked me more.

Bob Simon: ‘Cause it was a good story?

Helene Beltracchi: Yeah.

Bob Simon: And you were a good actress in telling the story?

Helene Beltracchi: Maybe.

She and Wolfgang even created fake labels from a real German dealer which they put on the backs of paintings, staining them with coffee and tea to make them look old.

They toured flea markets like this one to find canvases from the right periods.

Bob Simon: Tell me what we’re doing here. Tell me what we’re looking for.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: We’re looking for a painting like that because we need something that is 1919, 1910, see that’s a French one.

Bob Simon: You can get that completely clean?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, yeah, completely clean, yeah.

They sent paint pigments to labs to make sure they had been available at the time the artist had painted.

Bob Simon: You were really perfectionists weren’t you?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, yeah sure.

Bob Simon: And hearing you talk, you were really good criminals.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, yeah.

Helene Beltracchi: Yeah.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, it’s true.

To back up their story, they found an old box camera like this one, dressed Helene up to look like her grandmother, hung up some forgeries behind her and took some bogus photos on pre-war paper.

Jeff Taylor: To make it look like an old photograph which is, in the art world, in the documentation aspect, is golden.  Archival photographs are sort of the El Dorado.

Bob Simon: Now when you see something like that, do you say, “You gotta hand it to him”?

Jeff Taylor: Yes, yes you do.

Bob Simon: He was off and running.

Jeff Taylor: He was off and running.

Running to luxurious estates they bought in Germany and in France, vineyard included. They gave parties Gatsby would have loved and they traveled the world in style, by land or  by sea.  Bonnie and Clyde had taste.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: This is – was – my boat, yah.

Bob Simon: I don’t think you’re translating correctly. This isn’t a boat, it’s a yacht.

Beltracchi was riding high and thought he would stay up there forever.  He was turning out forgeries – like this Max Ernst which went for $7 million. But then in 2010, he got busted by this tube of white paint.

The Dutch manufacturer didn’t include on the tube that it contained traces of a pigment called titanium white. That form of titanium white wasn’t available when Ernst would have painted these works and Beltracchi’s high ride was over.

Jamie Martin, one of the world’s top forensic art analysts, uses science to help determine whether or not a painting is genuine. We asked him to examine this Beltracchi forgery for us.

Jamie Martin: His fakes are among the best fakes I’ve seen in my career. Very convincing.  Very well done.

Bob Simon: And what you’re saying is that basically he got away with it for 40 years because nobody was examining them properly?

Jamie Martin: Nobody was examining them closely enough.

He showed what he does, how he uses a stereomicroscope to study every millimeter of a painting’s surface, and to select and remove samples.

Bob Simon: You actually take little pieces off of the painting?

Jamie Martin: We take very little pieces. We take only the minimum amount that’s required. Smaller than the width of a human hair.

He uses what is called Raman spectroscopy, which can help detect historically inaccurate pigments. That’s what cut Beltracchi’s career short.  He was sentenced to six years in a German prison. His wife, Helene, to four. But the chaos they wrought has not been undone.  Now, galleries and auction houses who vouched for his forgeries have been sued by the collectors who bought them.

Bob Simon: You have, in fact, you’ve really upset the art world, haven’t you?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah sure, they all hate me, these experts now–

Bob Simon: Do you think the experts are just incompetent or that they are also frauds, that they pretend to know more than they know?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: No, no nearly all the experts we have met, we met, they were serious, really serious. Their only problem was that I was too good for them. Yes, that was their problem, that’s all.

And with all the legal problems they now have, many experts are very hesitant to use their expertise.

Jeff Taylor: I think they’re terrified. I think that Beltracchi particularly put them in a very nervous position.

Bob Simon: So being an art expert today is a risky business?

Jeff Taylor: It’s so risky that a lot of authentication boards have shut down. There’s just simply too much legal peril out there. It’s one of the reasons why a lot of experts will not give their opinions.

Many foundations representing major artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Willem de Kooning are refusing to authenticate works brought to them at all.  Francis O’Connor is the world’s top Jackson Pollock expert.  He says he can spot a fake Pollock in a second, but these days is keeping his opinions to himself.

Bob Simon: What if I were to come to you and say “this has been presented to me as a Pollock”

Francis O’Connor: Someone comes to me about once a week. I just let it go by

Bob Simon: Let it go by?

Francis O’Connor: In other words, ignore it.

Bob Simon: I’m not quite sure I understand.  If I come to you and I say, “Hey, this has been presented to me as a Pollock” and you can see right away that it isn’t, you’re not going to tell me “this is not a Pollock”?

Francis O’Connor: I would be very hesitant to give any opinion at that point, because of the legal situation.

Bob Simon: Where do I go to see whether my painting is a real Pollock or not?

Francis O’Connor: There is nowhere to go.

When collectors do have suspicions about their paintings, one of the few places they can go is Jamie Martin’s lab.

Bob Simon: Ballpark figure, if you’ve examined say a hundred paintings, how many of them are fakes?

Jamie Martin: I would say probably 98 percent are fake.

Bob Simon: No kidding.

Jamie Martin: That’s just the numbers.

At his trial in 2011, prosecutors said Beltracchi had created 36 fakes which were sold for $46 million.  But art historians believe, and Beltracchi told us, that there may be more than 300 of his fakes all over the world. German police have uncovered 60 so far and the numbers keep climbing.

Bob Simon: Do you think we’ll be uncovering fake Beltracchis for years to come?

Jeff Taylor: Absolutely. There’s gonna be many more out there. But one thing we know about fake art works is short of having them burned or destroyed, they have a strange way of finding their way back onto the market, generation after generation.

And no one disputes that they are awfully good.  Beautiful. This $7 million dollar fake Max Ernst is being shipped back to New York.  Its owner decided to keep it even after it had been exposed as a fake. He said it’s one of the best Max Ernsts he’s ever seen.

Beltracchi spent a year and a half in this grim penitentiary, but is now allowed to spend many days at home, where he is launching a new career. Beltracchi is painting again and is signing his works Beltracchi.  He needs to get his name out there, which is probably why he agreed to talk to us. He’s lost everything is now facing multiple lawsuits totaling $27 million.

Bob Simon: Did you ever think you would wind up in prison?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: No.

Bob Simon: At what point did you realize, uh-oh, I’m in trouble, this is over?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: When I was in prison.

Bob Simon: Not before then.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Not really, no.

Bob Simon: Do you think you did anything wrong?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yes, I use the wrong titanium white, yeah.

Bob Simon: What do you think this Max Ernst would be worth?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: This one?

Bob Simon: Yeah.

Wolfgang Beltracchi: $5 million, I think.

Bob Simon: $5 million.  And you can do it in three days?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, oh yes, yes, sure, or quicker.

Beltracchi estimates he has done 25 Max Ernsts. He is not copying an existing work. He’s painting something he thinks Ernst might have done if he’d had the time or felt like it.

Bob Simon: So you would be doing a Cezanne that Cezanne never painted but that you thought he might have wanted to paint?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yes, exactly.

So, in a sense, every Beltracchi painting is an original. He just lied about who painted it. He says forged a hundred artists and can do just about anyone.

Bob Simon: Could you do a Rembrandt?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, sure.

Bob Simon: Could you do a Leonardo?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, yeah, sure.

Bob Simon: Who couldn’t you do?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Maybe Bellini. Bellini’s really difficult.

He has sold his forgeries. Of course, but says he can still see some of them because they’re on public display.

Bob Simon: Have you seen your paintings, your forgeries hanging in museums?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah. Yeah, all the museums, you know. I think I am one of the most exhibited painters in museums of the world.

Bob Simon: You are one of the most exhibited painters in the world?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah, yeah.

Bob Simon: That’s quite an accomplishment

Wolfgang Beltracchi: Yeah.

You might have seen his stuff in New York’s Metropolitan Museum or in the Hermitage in Lausanne…to name just a couple.  You can also see them in the homes of the one percent. Actor Steve Martin bought this one. Beltracchi’s forgeries have also made it into art books listing the best paintings of the 20th century and have been sold in many of the world’s top auction houses.

Acción de protesta en el Guggenheim de Nueva York

Anoche día, 22 de febrero, más de 40 manifestantes realizaron una intervención en el interior del Museo Guggenheim en Manhattan. Desplegando pancartas, panfletos, cantando, entregando información a los visitantes del museo y llamando la atención con una corneta, el grupo trabajó para denunciar las condiciones de trabajo en la isla de Saadiyat, en los Emiratos Árabes Unidos, donde se está construyendo el Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, una franquicia del Guggenheim de Nueva York.

Puesta en escena en medio de la recién inaugurada exposición sobre el Futurismo, la intervención -un término usado por algunos miembros del grupo para describir la acción- recibió tanto el aplauso de los visitantes que parecían animados por la conmoción, así como reacciones de confusión de quienes no estaban al tanto de lo que sucedía.

Ver información completa en esferapública.

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Ne mettons pas les tableaux sous verre

En dos diferentes artículos en la Tribune de l’Art  con fechas del 8 y 16 de febrero, Dider Rykner comenta la compleja situación sobre los necesarios dispositivos de seguridad de pinturas de gran valor que resultan, al final, excesivos. Y como incluso pueden llegar a ser contraproducentes en caso de necesidad de una rápida evacuación (como por ejemplo un incendio) y dificultan, en la mayoría de sus casos, la mirada. Y si no, pues que se lo pregunten a la imagen del autor reflejada por el cristal de más abajo…

2. Didier Rykner Autoportrait avec Bertrand Galimard Flavigny

Didier Rykner
Autoportrait avec Bertrand Galimard Flavigny
(derrière la vitre, un tableau d’Ingres)

Les nouvelles de Lens sont heureusement très rassurantes : le feutre utilisé pour écrire sur la Liberté part assez facilement, l’épaisse couche de vernis du tableau ayant servi de protection.

Si cette affaire doit, à notre avis, poser une nouvelle fois la question de la pertinence du déplacement inutile de cette œuvre fragile qui ne devrait plus quitter le Louvre, il ne faudrait pas, comme on peut le lire ici ou là, que cela accélère un phénomène très regrettable qui se développe dans beaucoup de musées : le placement sous une protection excessive des œuvres, très coûteuse alors que l’argent manque, et qui empêche leur bonne contemplation. Il suffit de se rendre dans la grande Galerie du Louvre et d’essayer de regarder le Saint Sébastien de Mantegna (ill.) pour comprendre le problème.
La pose de verres et de caissons climatiques sur les tableaux est une véritable plaie qui ne doit se faire que dans quelques cas exceptionnels, et encore. Le risque zéro n’existe pas et on ne peut raisonner en fonction d’incidents en définitive fort rares et presque jamais irrémédiables.

A-t-on d’ailleurs pensé aux conséquences sur une évacuation rapide qui serait rendue nécessaire par un incendie ou une soudaine catastrophe ? Il serait alors très difficile de sauver des œuvres devenues trop lourdes ou inaccessibles par des systèmes de protection sophistiqués.
Ne répondons pas à de vraies questions par de mauvaise solutions.

Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) Saint Sébastien

Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) Saint Sébastien

Il est de moins en moins difficile de repérer, dans les expositions en région, les œuvres prêtées par le Louvre. Celles-ci font en effet l’objet de mesures de précaution qu’on peut difficilement rater. Soit il s’agit d’une mise à distance, à l’aide d’un cordon ou d’une barrière de faible hauteur, qui est censée empêcher le visiteur de toucher l’œuvre par mégarde en la regardant de trop près (c’était le cas, par exemple, au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen pour l’exposition dédiée à Delacroix et la Normandie l’année dernière dans le cadre de l’opération Le Temps des Collections), soit on se trouve devant une grosse vitre placée devant l’œuvre comme nous venons de le voir au Palais Lumière d’Évian dans l’exposition consacrée au Baron Vitta (voir l’article).

Ces dispositifs sont à la fois gênants pour le visiteur et, pour le premier, plus risqué pour les œuvres que ce dont il prétend les protéger. Qui n’a expérimenté le danger de ces barrières basses dans lesquelles un visiteur distrait aura vite fait de basculer, au risque de tomber sur l’œuvre ? Un vandale qui voudrait délibérément abimer un tableau ne se laissera évidemment pas arrêter par un tel dispositif qui ne dérange que les visiteurs ayant envie de voir l’œuvre de près.

Mais la demande la plus gênante est bien celle de mettre une vitre entre l’œuvre et les visiteurs. Dans l’exposition Vitta, deux tableaux d’Ingres, fort proches de sujet, de format et de technique, sont placés côte à côte. Celui de gauche appartient au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, qui l’a prêté sans demander autre chose que les précautions habituelles. Celui de droite vient du Louvre. Et il est à peu près invisible à cause des reflets, comme en témoigne la photo de face que nous en avons prise (ill. 2). C’est peut être bête, mais un amateur d’Ingres préférera toujours voir un tableau du maître que son propre reflet dans une glace. Il n’a pas besoin d’aller au musée pour cela.
Où est ici le plaisir de la contemplation d’une œuvre d’art ? Prétexter la sécurité des œuvres, alors qu’on ne cesse de leur faire courir des risques inutiles en les prêtant ou en les louant parfois pour des expositions sans intérêt, semble très hypocrite. Ou alors il faut définitivement cesser d’exposer les originaux et les enfermer dans des coffres où on est à peu près sûr qu’ils ne risqueront rien.

Exposition « L’effet Bloemaert », Utrecht

Exposition « L’effet Bloemaert », Utrecht
A gauche : Bergère avec des grappes, 1628
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle
Au centre : Allégorie de l’hiver, vers 1625-1630
Paris, Musée du Louvre
A droite : Bergère avec un poème, 1628
Tolède, Museum of Art
Photo : BBSG

Un pase más de Elena Vozmediano.

Problemas con los jarrones de Ai Wei Wei

Los jarrones del artista chino Ai Wei Wei no paran de tener problemas!

Maximo Caminero, un artista de Florida, ha sido acusado de romper voluntariamente un jarrón de una exposición de Wei Wei en el Pérez Art Museum de Miami, valorado en 1 millón de dólares. El artista lo hizo para protestar por la falta de arte local en la programación del museo. He aquí el momento:

Y en Sevilla, una visitante ha roto accidentalmente, al tropezar, otro jarrón de una instalación del artista en el Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo.Ver aquí la noticia.

wei wei
Un pase de Oier Gil y Pau Figueres.