Not a week goes by without a dispute over the provenance or rightful ownership of artworks. This one was no exception: Despite a Geneva court ruling in 2007 that awarded Phoenix Ancient Art rightful ownership of 251 antiquities, the Manhattan gallery has elected to return the objects to the Italian state, which claims that they may have been illegally looted in the 1980s. Sotheby’s has halted the sale of Children Under a Palm Tree, an 1885 Winslow Homer painting set to fetch an estimated $150,000 after learning that it may have been stolen. In more fraud-related news, Brooke Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, is facing the most serious larceny charge leveled against him for the alleged mishandling of his mother’s estate. Marshall claimed that Astor had given him the Childe Hassam painting he sold to a Manhattan gallery for $10 million before pocketing a $2 million commission for himself. U.S. News and World Reports weighs in with its own report on the “shadowy underworld” of art-related crime.
In the Department of Ruffled Feathers, journalist and author Michael Gross’ explosive expose about the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogues’ Gallery, hit bookstores last week, igniting a backlash from some of New York society’s most powerful players. On a less controversial front, fledgling curators Barack and Michele Obama have borrowed seven works for their private residence from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Eschewing more conventional fare, the Obamas selected more contemporary works such as “Numerals, 0 through 9,” by Jasper Johns, “Berkeley No. 52,” by Richard Diebenkorn, and with tongues undoubtedly planted firmly in cheeks, an Edward Ruscha’s canvas “I think maybe I’ll …” Reflecting on the First Lady’s appearance in New York several weeks back to inaugurate the newly refurbished American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time considers the future of the arts in the United States following the current economic collapse.