Art Thefts Rock Italian Broadcaster, David Bowie Work to Auction, and More: Morning Links from June 14, 2021

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The Headlines

IN WHAT HAS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST PECULIAR ART HEISTS to come to light in recent memory, Italy’s public broadcaster, RAI, said that some 120 artworks have been stolen from its offices at various points over the past half-century, including prints by ModiglianiMonet, and other noted artists, the AFP reports. Officials apparently became aware of the issue earlier this year, when a painting supposedly by the Italian artist Ottone Rosai fell off the wall and was identified as a copy. Police found the man who swapped it in for the original in the ’70s, and he confessed to selling the vintage piece, but the statute of limitations has run out, the Guardian reports. Authorities think most of the works were taken in the last 25 years by others. Fakes took the place of some while others vanished.

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AFTER THREE YEARS OF LEGAL JOUSTING, part of the war over Robert Indiana’s legacy is coming to a close. The estate of the “LOVE” artist and a company that has the rights to reproduce some of his works, Morgan Art Foundation, have officially reached a settlement, the Associated Press reports. The company had claimed that a New York–based publisher was making unauthorized Indiana pieces in the last years of his life, while the estate said the company was not properly paying royalties to the Maine-based artist. Everyone involved rejected the allegations. The settlement, first floated months ago, is not public. The New York Times notes that the publisher, Michael McKenzie, is not a part of the settlement, and has ongoing disputes with the parties. “I can take this apart,” he told the Times of the agreement. The AP also writes that Maine’s attorney general has accused the estate of paying millions in excessive legal fees, a charge it denies. Indiana’s estate is said to be worth at least $80 million; his will called for a museum to be created in his home on the remote island of Vinalhaven.

The Digest

Artist Dorothea Rockburne is suing her upstairs neighbors (a former Twitter CEO and his wife) in the SoHo building she has long called home for $2 million, alleging that water that leaked from their apartment damaged more than 176 of her works—25 to the point that they cannot be salvaged. Ginia Bellafante reports. [The New York Times]

What should become of the racist mural by artist Rex Whistler in the basement restaurant at Tate Britain in London, which became a subject of heavy public criticism last July? The museum said it will review what to do beginning this summer, with the end of the year as a deadline. Activists say the museum has been too slow to act. [The New York Times]

A news story you do not see every day: The model and photographer Penny Lancaster (who is married to rocker Rod Stewart) is working as a London police officer, and apprehended a man urinating on a Richard Serra sculpture (in a bizarre echo of David Hammons’s performance peeing on a work by the famed sculptor, as captured by Dawoud Bey). [The Sun]

The artist Phyllida Barlow was named a dame by Queen Elizabeth II, artists Edmund de Waal and Martin Parr were made CBEs (Commanders of the Order of the British Empire), and dealer Sadie Coles was given an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire). [The Art Newspaper]

Writer Nicole Rudick surveyed the wide range of art that has been inspired by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952). [T: The New York Times Style Magazine]

The U.S. Postal Service has released stamps honoring the Cuban-American artist Emilio Sanchez. [The Miami Herald]

Artist Peter Blake (CBE)—who created the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) album, and so much more—has kindly offered up his recipe for beans on toast. [Wallpaper]

The Kicker

A PAINTING BY DAVID BOWIE THAT WAS PURCHASED at a Goodwill shop three hours north of Toronto for CA$5 (about US$4.10) last year will be offered at auction later this month with an estimate of CA$9,000 (about US$7,400), the Globe and Mail reports. It’s a portrait of a somewhat spooky spectral head. While such astounding thrift-store finds often involve serious detective work on the part of buyers, Rob Cowley (of the Toronto house Cowley Abbott , which is handling the sale) said that the anonymous seller “was taken by the painting itself at first. Then she saw the printed label on the back that identified it as a work by David Bowie.” Good eye! [The Globe and Mail]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.


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