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Christie’s Brings in $81.7M for Impressionist and Modern Art; Cybercriminals Scammed Dutch Museum Out of $3.1M

Also, a sale of the Johnson Publishing Company’s art collection saw 100% of lots sold at Swann Auctions Galleries, New York’s Film Forum received a $1 million gift, and more.

Tamara de Lempicka, “Portrait de Marjorie Ferry” (1932), oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 25 5/8 in. (100 x 65 cm.). Realised GBP 16,280,000 (~$21,000,000) at the Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. (courtesy of Christie’s)

Cybercriminals scammed the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, the Netherlands out of $3.1 million. The museum was attempting to purchase an idyllic landscape painting by 19th century British painter John Constable, “A View of Hampstead Heath: Child’s Hill, Harrow in the Distance” (1824), from Old Master art dealer Simon C. Dickinson. Hackers intercepted the email negotiations, posed as Dickinson, and convinced the museum to wire the money to a bank in Hong Kong. The Rijksmuseum brought a case against Dickinson for negligence but lost in a London High Court this past Thursday.

The German Lost Art Foundation won a lawsuit against claimant Wolfgang Peiffer, a collector in Baden-Baden, Germany. In 2018 Peiffer filed suit because a painting that he had purchased at auction in 1999, Andreas Achenbach’s “Sicilian Landscape” (1861), is listed on lostart.de, an online database of Nazi-looted art and cultural assets. In 1937 the painting changed hands via a forced sale by Jewish art dealer Max Stern. Peiffer claimed that he purchased the work in good faith but because it appears in the online registry it has been unsellable.

The “big three” auction houses — Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips — are vying for two important collections, which could go to auction as soon as May. Recently divorced real-estate moguls Harry and Linda Macklowe have been court-ordered to part with 65 works estimated at more than $700 million. Their collection of modern and contemporary art includes a $50 million “Marilyn” by Andy Warhol and a $10 million Jeff Koons sculpture. Donald Marron, the former president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, passed away this past December, leaving behind a collection that includes works by Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko and is valued at $450 million. Gloves may come off.

The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sales at Sotheby’s London and Christie’s London garnered $64.8 million and $81.7 million, respectively. Several commentators suggested that Brexit and the general election have caused problems on both the consignment and sales sides; some savvy sellers are angling to have their works auctioned in New York or sold privately instead.

Sotheby’s New York will hold a dedicated sale of Juan Hamilton’s collection, which includes notable art, objects, and ephemera previously owned by power couple Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, who were married for 22 years. Hamilton, an artist himself, met O’Keeffe when he was helping to repair the plumbing in her home. They become close friends and quite possibly lovers, and he ended up being the sole executor of her estate. Valued between $4 and $6 million, O’Keeffe’s “Nature Forms–Gaspé” (1932) will be the priciest work in the sale.

Jim S. Smoote II, “Untitled (Three Women)” (1969), looped and woven wool on a stitched felt and burlap. (photo by Jasmine Weber for Hyperallergic)

Swann Auction Galleries in New York held a record-breaking sale of African American art from the collection of the Johnson Publishing Company, which formerly published Ebony and Jet magazine. The bankruptcy sale, which featured work by 75 artists, totaled $2.7 million with an impressive sell-through rate of 100%. It also set auction records for 51 artists, 22 of which had never had work come to the auction block previously. The publishing house’s legendary archives, which have featured prominently in contemporary art by Theaster Gates and Lorna Simpson, among others, were purchased and donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Getty Research Institute last year.

New York’s Film Forum received a gift of $1 million from the Charles and Lucille King Family Foundation in honor of the nonprofit movie theater’s semicentennial. The donation, which will be used to inaugurate the Diana King Theater, is equal to one-sixth of Film Forum’s current annual operating budget (and more than five times its annual operating budget when it opened in 1970). The independent movie house also received a donation of $250,000 from the Robert Jolin Osborne Trust, which will put toward the creation of the Robert Jolin Osborne Endowed Fund for American Classic Cinema of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s.

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