Weekly News Roundup: April 6- April 10, 2009

Art, antiques and collectibles news includes an auction of Elkins Loop chairs, paintings from Hearst Castle and Christie’s in Washington, D.C.

From The New York Times:
In Chair Design, An Endless Loop

The Times has a profile of the Elkins Loop chair, designed in the 1930s by a Chicago decorator, in time for the auction of several of the chairs at Sotheby’s today. Presale estimates are in the neighborhood of $6,000–$8,000 for a pair of “The It Chair,” as designated by The Magazine Antiques.

Hearst Castle Paintings to be Returned to Holocaust Heirs

Paintings that have hung at the Hearst Castle in California since 1935 are being repatriated to their rightful owners after a two-year investigation. The investigation found that three paintings, all thought to be works by Venetian artists, belong to the heirs of Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer, antiques dealers who fled Germany in the 1930s and were later victims of the Holocaust. Two paintings will be returned, and the third will remain with their permission at the Hearst Castle.

From Auction Central News:
Christie’s closes Washington, D.C. branch

Christie’s is shuttering its branch in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., though the auction house hasn’t cited any specific reason for the closure. In a statement, Christie’s said their Washington, D.C., area clients and customers will be served by the New York location.

From The Guardian (UK):
New York art dealer accused of being Bernie Madoff’s middleman

Ezra Merkin, a New York art collector and managing partner of Gabriel Capital, has been charged with almost $2.5 billion in fraud in connection to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Merkin allegedly collected money from clients under false pretenses then handed it over to Madoff. Among Merkin’s payoffs? An apartment with $91-million worth of fine art—including one of the world’s largest Mark Rothko collections.

Getty to Return Ancient Fresco to Italy

After accusations of possessing illegally exported artifacts from Italy, the J. Paul Getty Museum is returning a first-century B.C. fresco fragment to its home country. The piece has been in the museum’s collection since 1996, and director Michael Brand says the decision to repatriate it comes after new evidence pertaining to the fresco’s provenance came to light last year.

From Bloomberg:
Qing Dynasty Vase Fetches $6 Million At Hong Kong Auctions

A Qinglong era (1736-1795) Chinese vase was the top lot at Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale today, selling for $6 million and more than doubling its presale estimate. There was a five-minute bidding war for the vase with offers increasing in HK$1 million ($129,000) intervals before a phone buyer sealed the deal. Sotheby’s five-day sale wrapped up with today’s total of HK$178 million ($23 million).

From BBC News:
Jackson fails to overturn auction

Michael Jackson’s request to stop an authorized sale of his belongings was rejected by a Los Angeles judge. The judge ruled that the auction should proceed, after arguments that Julien’s Auctions has already invested $2 million in the sale and could face bankruptcy if the auction were to be cancelled. Though Jackson’s representatives previously agreed on the sale and signed a contract, Jackson reneged and filed suit against Julien’s Auctions last month. The sale remains scheduled for April 22 in Beverly Hills.

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Experts unveil new Leonardo portrait

A previously unknown portrait of Leonardo da Vinci that was discovered in December in a family collection was unveiled in Rome last week. The painting shows the artist as a middle-aged man, wearing dark robes and complete with long hair and a black hat. Carbon dating on the wood indicates that it is from Leonardo’s lifetime (1452–1519), though experts say that doesn’t necessarily mean it was painted then. The portrait belongs to a family in the Basilicata region of southern Italy.

From The Guardian (UK):
Lost drawing of Henry VIII’s great victory uncovered

In another instance of mislabeled pieces in the British Library collection, a previously unknown drawing of Henry VIII’s 1544 victory over French armies in the Siege of Boulogne was discovered in the London institution’s archives. The last in a series of four drawings, experts have wondered over the years why the final piece was never created; turns out, it was at the British Library for centuries.

It was common practice in the 16th century for rulers to commission an artist to commemorate military battles and achievements in a series of drawings that were then the blueprint for oil paintings. The drawing will be on public display at the British Library in an exhibit honoring the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the English throne.

From Bloomberg:
Chinese Master Lin Sets Record at $20.5 Million Hong Kong

Sotheby’s much-anticipated Hong Kong sale of 20th-century Chinese and contemporary Asian art kicked off today with a bang. Though records were shattered in several categories, one Lin Fengmian painting proved to be the blockbuster when it sold for HK$16.3 million ($2.1 million)). It nearly tripled its presale estimate to make up a good chunk of the sale’s $20.5 million total. The auction fared better for masterworks than those by contemporary artists, and 158 of the 209 sold. Several nonpainting works also fetched high prices, including two pearl bowls (HK$1.7 million/$219,600) and a pumpkin sculpture (HK$2.72 million/$350,400).

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