October 3, 2018

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

Looted Renoir is returned to French heir in New York
For Teachers, a STEAM Workshop Where Arts Are Key
Black coffee puts painter Mlangeni on the map
A work by Hopper, promised as gift, heads to the auction block instead
The Science of Uncovering Forged Paintings
German court orders restorer to pay dealer €26,000 after eight-year dispute
Salvator Mundi’s patchwork provenance now includes a 50-year stop in Louisiana
The Bold Colours of Painter Michael Tickner
New Research Finds that Caravaggio Died of Sepsis, Not Syphilis
Putting the joy back into her painting
In Chicago, can art unite a deeply divided neighborhood?
Hard, soft or no-deal: how the UK art market is preparing for Brexit
Louisiana Supreme Court Ends Rule Banning the Outdoor Sale of Art in New Orleans





Looted Renoir is returned to French heir in New York
Granddaughter of Jewish collector flies in for restitution ceremony

Ending a long odyssey, a Nazi-looted painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir was officially returned today (12 September) in New York to the sole surviving heir of the Jewish art collector from whom it was stolen.

At a restitution ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan, Two Women in a Garden (1919) was presented to Sylvie Sulitzer, a delicatessen owner from a small town near Marseilles and the granddaughter of the Parisian art collector Alfred Weinberger. Before the painting was unveiled, Sulitzer read a statement highlighting the importance of restitution as a form of justice.

Also in attendance was Robert Morgenthau, the former Manhattan district attorney who blocked the return of two Egon Schiele paintings to Austria from the Museum of Modern Art in 1998—an act that led to greater international cooperation in processing claims of art stolen from Jewish families during the Second World War. Morgenthau spoke of the importance of collaboration in rectifying such cases.

The painting, created in the last year of Renoir’s life, is a whirlwind of broad brushstrokes depicting the blurred figures of two women sitting in the grass near what appears to be a large tree. Weinberger purchased the work in 1925 for his extensive art collection. As the Nazis advanced on Paris, Weinberger was forced to flee with his family and left his collection in a bank vault in Paris for safekeeping. In 1941, while the family hid in the small Alpine town of Aix-les-Bains (Weinberger was a maquisard, a guerrilla fighter for the French Resistance), a Nazi task force devoted to appropriating property raided the family’s bank vault, taking Two Women in a Garden and numerous other works.

After the war ended, Weinberger set out to restore his collection, registering claims with both the French and German authorities. While he was able to locate some of the works, the piece by Renoir remained missing.

“Nobody told me about the painting,” Sulitzer said in an interview. “We never talked about the war at home. It was taboo.” When Sulitzer’s parents divorced, she and her mother moved in with her grandparents, and even though she knew her family had a deep appreciation for art, her grandfather never mentioned any of the missing paintings. Nevertheless, when Jacques Chirac, then France’s president, created the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation in 1999, Sulitzer submitted a request in her grandfather’s name in case anything turned up.

Several years ago, Sulitzer received a call from a German law firm inquiring whether it could help her track down some of her family’s stolen artwork. She agreed. The firm discovered in 2013 that Two Women in a Garden was listed for sale at Christie’s in New York and contacted the auction house, which took it off the block and asked the FBI for assistance.

Monica Dugot, the director of restitution at Christie’s, said the auction house had done extensive research on the painting before offering it for sale but that the work was not registered with a German government database of art looted by the Nazis until after the auction had already been announced.

Sulitzer says the US government invited her to the restitution ceremony at the museum and that when she said she couldn’t afford the plane ticket, it offered to pay for her journey. It is her first trip to New York. (She was very excited about trying the food at Katz's Delicatessen in Manhattan.) And if she's lucky, Sulitzer might be back someday. From her grandfather’s collection, four more Renoirs and a Delacroix remain unaccounted for.

She said she was thrilled to see her grandfather’s Renoir for the first time, but “for me, it’s not the fact of the painting really. It’s a kind of justice.” She said she wanted to show her deceased “beloved family, wherever they are” that justice can prevail.

Yet she does not plan to hold on to Two Women in a Garden: it is headed for sale at Christie’s at a daytime auction on 12 November. “I can’t afford to keep it,” Sulitzer says. (She says she now owes money to the French and German governments in connection with compensation she previously received.) “I would have loved to keep it,” she adds.

The work is scheduled to remain on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which has previously presided over such handovers of looted art, through Sunday (16 September). But Dugot says the auction house is hoping that the viewing can be extended for a couple more weeks. The Art Newspaper


For Teachers, a STEAM Workshop Where Arts Are Key

LAS VEGAS: Inside a science lab here on a scorching summer day, 27 kids sit in small groups itching to get started on the day’s science activity: putting finishing touches on their model volcanoes.

Vicky Zblewski, a 12-year veteran of the 4th-grade classroom, stands at the front of the room wearing a Hawaiian shirt studded with erupting volcanoes, as she reviews some volcanology basics (What is a cone volcano? Does it have thin or thick lava?). She walks around the room asking kids questions about their creations, sculpted in white modeling clay. “Think about where your lava is going to go,” she advises, as kids start brushing on coats of black and brown paint and rivulets of red dripping off the sides.

Thus goes a typical, hands-on science lesson at Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, a public magnet located about two miles north of the casinos of Fremont Street and the downtown core. More than 60 percent of students are on free or reduced lunch, yet Bracken is one of the top performing elementary schools in the city and ranks in the top two Title I schools in the state.

“We became a STEAM academy five years ago and we knew the arts were really important,” explains Vice Principal Michelle Wheatfill, dropping the buzzword that stands for Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics. “But we weren't actually seeing how that was translating into general-ed classrooms.”

Students would attend special art and music classes weekly, but there was little thought given to how math or science class could benefit from painting or building with Legos in an integrated way. That all changed when the school took eight teachers to a Title I conference two years ago—a reward for its top performance.

Teachers were encouraged to wander around and soak up the conference, but Zblewski, who was recovering from knee surgery, parked herself with colleagues in a room set up by Crayola to highlight its creatED series of professional development workshops, which cover art integration, creative leadership and breaking down science and math concepts visually.

After the conference, teachers at Bracken—a school that prides itself on its democratic approach to decision making—decided to give it a shot. “I liked that it was making it not so scary to add art to your curriculum,” says Zblewski, whose volcano project was inspired by the program.

Hands-On Learning

Begun just last year, the creatED workshops mark a new focus for Crayola, which was founded as an education company before shifting gears to capture a broader consumer market. If activities that involve making and painting volcanoes out of art supplies seem decidedly low-tech for a series so heavily invested in STEAM—an acronym that features technology as its second letter—that’s not by accident. The goal of the workshops is to get learners thinking about the concepts that power technology in a tactile, hands-on way, even when they’re not using any.

Take a workshop lesson titled “unplugged coding,” which is designed to demystify the logic behind computer science. Teachers act out a set of commands like a game of charades—step forward three times and turn left—and their peers try to draw what they see to replicate the sequence. “The big learning is that coding is visual communication,” says Cheri Sterman, Crayola’s director of education. “With teachers we talk about how they’re literally using algorithms to do storytelling,” she says.

The workshops are aimed specifically at K-8 teachers and hone in on activities heavy on paint, clay and markers, like the ones kids might tackle in the classroom. One portion asks small groups to work together and create hanging mobiles to illustrate science concepts. Others showcase design thinking principles or how to think like scientists during a project-based lesson.

After the workshop, teams get workbooks full of ideas on how to make their thinking visual, Sterman says. “They’re filled with classroom application ideas, assessment rubrics, and planning frameworks.” The workshops also heavily promote the use of Crayola products, and at the end participants leave with bags outfitted, naturally, with Crayola supplies.

While all the workshops center around hands-on making, schools can choose one of three focus areas: STEAM; visual literacy, which includes math and reading concepts; and creative leadership.

That last area has proven a crucial bit of marketing savvy to get school leaders in the door, according Pamela Fossett, who leads the education policy and professional practice department at the Alabama Education Association, and has conducted creatED workshops for Crayola. Somewhat unconventionally for a teacher workshop, Crayola strongly encourages principals to attend side-by-side with coaches and staff, and both leaders and teachers are taught to spread concepts and activities to the whole school.

“The creative leadership piece is really used to target our principals and assistant principals because in Alabama they have to earn professional learning units to keep their licenses current,” Fossett explains. “We just called it a creative leadership initiative so that principals would be engaged with teachers and not think, ‘Oh, this is just some little frilly activity.’”

In an era when teachers and schools are benefiting big from brand associations with education companies, outreach from companies like Google has raised alarms that brands are marketing themselves straight to classrooms (and future consumers). Crayola is certainly putting marketing muscle behind creatED. But everyone interviewed for this story indicated that teachers were driving much of the program's momentum in schools. The challenge for the company is not name recognition but awareness that the workshops exist.

Before she started facilitating workshops, Fossett was unaware the company was even involved in professional development. It's a sentiment she hears often when she talks to teachers. “A lot of my participants at the end of Day One told me, 'We had no idea Crayola was doing this,' and I was like, 'Yeah, me too,'” she says. “They relate [the brand] with the crayons and the markers,” she says.

Like Bracken, many of the attendees at Fossett’s workshops in Alabama came from Title I schools, an area Crayola is heavily invested in reaching. In addition to its presence at the annual conference, the company encourages schools to use their Title I funds toward its workshops and even offers an online guide spelling out how the program aligns with various buckets of federal money, including Title I.

Wrapped into that is a related push for making home-school connections. The unplugged coding lesson, for example, was turned into an activity for families to work on together as part of a take-home kit.

“A major portion of the Title I mission is to make sure families and educators are co-educating,” Sterman says. The lesson still focuses on sequencing and math but with some key adaptations. Standards are referred to as “big ideas,” and there’s a focus on getting families learning together. “They’re having fun and it aligns with the vocabulary in these grades,” she says. “It boosts parents’ confidence in these ideas.”

Wheatfill, the vice principal at Bracken, sees the hands-on focus on integrating the arts into core subjects as a confidence builder for educators, too. “Not everybody sees themselves is an artist or feels like they're creative or even knows where to begin,” she says. “That holds them back. That's where the mindshift is.” EdSurge


Black coffee puts painter Mlangeni on the map
A lack of art materials forced artist Ennock Mlangeni to be creative with whatever was at his disposal — with sensational results

Poverty and a lack of art materials inspired artist Ennock Mlangeni to reach for a coffee tin in search of a dark-coloured substance to complete his work, and this choice has catapulted him into the limelight.

He trended on social media platforms earlier in 2018 for a painting of internationally acclaimed SA DJ Black Coffee — using coffee to get the colour of his skin exactly right.

Mlangeni, 27, of Sasolburg in the Free State, says that he sometimes cannot afford to buy materials with which to work, forcing him to be creative with whatever is at his disposal. So he stumbled upon the idea of using instant-coffee granules, earning him the nickname Coffee Bae.

"That was actually a coincidence, because as a creative person I test a lot of different materials to create my art pieces — like newspapers, pens and charcoal for instance — as I do not have paint at times. So one day I was playing around and I saw a coffee can, I tested it out, and it worked," he says.

The self-taught visual artist is also striding a path to give the world a different perspective on women, one brush stroke at a time. He wants to show that women are more than just their external beauty; that they are strong and powerful.

Raised by his grandmother, Mlangeni discovered from a very young age that he had a talent for art.

"I started art in primary school and when I was in high school I won awards at the Sasol TechnoX for three consecutive years, in grades 10, 11 and 12," he says.

Mlangeni, who has had no formal training, dreamed of going to art school after he completed matric.

"Due to financial difficulties I could not go to art school. I was raised by my grandmother after both my parents passed away and all 12 of us in the house relied on her government pension," he says.

Mlangeni says his paintings are mostly about women because he is inspired by them, especially his grandmother.

"With all the negative things happening to women, such as violence and abuse, I want to do my part to bring awareness to these social ills and have people look at women differently and see how special they are," he explains.

He says being based in a township is a disadvantage because he struggles to reach art markets. But with an adept use of social media — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — to showcase his paintings, he has gained an impressive following.

Mlangeni has painted and sketched portraits of many prominent people — including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Patrice Motsepe and Trevor Noah — and was commissioned to do a portrait of an actor for the TV show Skeem Saam.

He is now raising money to open a proper art studio in Sasolburg. He currently exhibits his work in his tiny shack and wants a space where his work and that of other artists can be viewed by people who are hesitant to enter townships.

"The studio will be also used as a space to showcase talent in the local community and hold exhibitions. As we have a high unemployment rate in SA, such facilities can help develop the youth to be self-sufficient using their talents," Mlangeni says.

"My dream is to open an art academy and every day I am getting a step closer to that dream. The art studio will grow and hopefully become an art hub, where other experienced artists can teach and develop young kids, who are interested in arts, through workshops."

Mlangeni says this is also a way to get children and unemployed young adults off the streets and get them to use their time more productively.

"By having this studio, we will be fighting so many things that are hindering us to progress. Some people resort to drugs such as nyaope because of boredom, and the fact that there are no facilities to express their skills," he says.

He has been invited to showcase his paintings at a number of exhibitions, including at the centenary celebrations of Africa’s Excellence Through Arts and Culture and at the Art Eye Gallery in Johannesburg earlier in 2018. Business Day


A work by Hopper, promised as gift, heads to the auction block instead
Christie's to sell $70m painting once pledged to the Seattle Art Museum

It is described as the finest collection of American modernism ever to come to market: around 85 works acquired by the late luxury travel magnate Barney Ebsworth with the mantra “quality, quality, quality”.

Christie’s says that the works, estimated at a combined $300m, will go on the auction block in New York in November after a whirlwind tour of the collection’s highlights in Paris, New York, Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Leading the list of art treasures with a sales estimate of $70m is Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey (1929), an atmospheric painting of a moody restaurant scene described by the auction house as “the most important work by the artist in private hands”. Other highlights include Jackson Pollock’s Composition With Red Strokes (1950), which Christie’s estimates at around $50m, and Willem de Kooning’s Woman as Landscape (1955), at around $60m.

What the auction house didn’t mention, however, is that Ebsworth promised Chop Suey to the Seattle Art Museum in 2007. Contacted for its reaction, the museum declined to comment specifically on the Ebsworth pledge.

“The late Barney A. Ebsworth was a great collector, philanthropist, champion for art and longtime Seattle Art Museum trustee,” Kimerly Rorschach, the museum’s director and chief executive, said in a statement. “We are forever grateful for the generous support he bestowed upon SAM. Over the years, he contributed many works of art to the museum, including four transformative gifts that recently arrived at SAM and are now on view.”

Christie’s says that when Ebsworth died in April, he “entrusted the balance of his collection to his family” and that the auction house is selling a “portion” of the collection “in accordance with the family’s wishes”.

Phone calls to Christiane Ladd, Ebsworth’s daughter in Chicago, were not returned. Stewart Landefeld, the chairman of the board of trustees at the Seattle Art Museum, referred queries to the museum’s communications department.

Museums are often loath to condemn donors who renege on promised gifts unless the pledged donation involves a substantial sum that the museum relied on to meet its budget or finance a special project.

Generally “a promise to make a gift is not binding” in and of itself, says Barbara Lawrence, a trusts and estates attorney at the New York law firm Herrick, although “there could be circumstances which make that promise binding, such as ‘detrimental reliance’”—if the museum relied on the promise of that gift to make a purchase, for example.

Christie’s announcement of the November sale describes Hopper’s Chop Suey as one of Ebsworth’s “most prized possessions”. The painting, centering on two women in cloche hats sitting at a table by a window in a restaurant, “epitomises the psychologically complex meditations for which the artist is best known, while uniquely capturing the zeitgeist of New York during one of its most interesting eras of transition”, the auction house says.

Among other shows, Chop Suey was previously included in a popular Hopper retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2012-13 and in an exhibition of Ebsworth’s art holdings that traveled to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Seattle Art Museum in 2000.

Born in St Louis in 1934, Ebsworth developed a passion for art while stationed with the US Army in France, where he made weekly trips to the Louvre. After amassing a fortune in the luxury air travel and cruise ship industries, he began indulging his love of art by purchasing Old Masters but later settled on American Modernist painting as his main focus, seeking top examples by major figures. Eventually he moved from St Louis to Seattle, where he expanded his already renowned collection and became a trustee at the Seattle Art Museum.

Aside from the Hopper, the Pollock and the de Kooning, highlights of Christie’s sale include Joan Mitchell’s 12 Hawks at 3 O’Clock (1960, $14m to $16m) and Jasper Johns’s Gray Rectangles (1957, $20m to $30m) as well as works by Franz Kline, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Charles Sheeler and William Glackens. The auction house says the Ebsworth works will be offered in two sales during its flagship 20th Century Week on 11 through 17 November but that it has not settled on precise dates.

In its statement, the Seattle Art Museum emphasised that it had benefitted from Ebsworth’s largesse. It cited his gifts of O’Keeffe’s Music—Pink and Blue No. 1 (1918) and Marsden Hartley’s Painting No. 49 (1914-15), which are on view in a new installation of works from the museum’s American art collection, and Francisco de Zurbarán’s The Flight into Egypt (around 1638-40) and Philippe de Champaigne’s The Visitation (around 1643), which are hanging in the museum’s European galleries.

“The most visible testament of Ebsworth’s commitment to SAM may be his 2013 gift of Echo, Jaume Plensa’s monumental sculpture that serenely looks out towards the Olympic Mountains from the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park,” Rorschach said. “We look forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with the Ebsworth family.” The Art Newspaper


The Science of Uncovering Forged Paintings
With Basquiats, Modiglianis, and Picassos going for upwards of $100 million, the stakes have never been higher.

There’s an old joke among art market veterans that says the thicker the file of supporting documents for a painting, the more likely it is to be a pants-on-fire fake. These days, in a world in which Basquiats, Modiglianis, and Picassos can top $100 million, the stakes have never been higher for prospective buyers, who want all the evidence they can get that the works they’re considering are exactly what they think they are. Less willing to rely solely on the opinions of experts—many of whom have stopped doing authentications, out of fear of being sued—collectors, dealers, and auction houses are increasingly turning to scientists.

They’re hiring people like Nica Gutman Rieppi, a technical art historian and conservator who serves as the lead investigator in New York for the firm Art Analysis & Research. The company, which also has offices in London and Austria, uses a variety of state-of-the-art tools to analyze materials and methods used to create ­paintings, determine condition and age, and help confirm attributions or detect fakes.

“Some people estimate that 20 to 50 percent of all works in the world are fakes, forgeries, misattributions, or unknowns,” says Rieppi, who notes that a large percentage of problematic works are, unsurprisingly, “found with artists who are selling at high price points.”
Rieppi says a typical day for her might begin by visiting an auction house to examine a Jackson Pollock coming up for sale, where she conducts a microscopic survey of its surface to look for, among other things, signs of artificial aging and any irregularities with the signature. (She has seen more than one fraudulent Pollock on which his name was misspelled.)

Later on she might be in her lab, doing infrared, X-ray, or ultraviolet fluorescence imaging on a painting that might be a Rembrandt “to determine whether it’s a work by a follower of Rembrandt from his contemporary circle, from his studio, or by the master himself,” she says.

For works made in the last 50 years or so she might employ a technology known as bomb curve analysis—she recently used it on a Basquiat—to help pinpoint the date of creation. In the late 1950s and early ’60s nuclear weapon tests caused a spike in radiation in the atmosphere, Rieppi explains, and determining the amount of radiation present in a canvas allows paintings to be dated more precisely.

One fake that Rieppi uncovered recently came to her as a Monet landscape from a private collection. The style was consistent with the Impressionist’s work, and the back of the period canvas had all the labels from galleries and exhibitions you’d expect to find. X-rays revealed an underpainting of a bouquet of roses, which wasn’t itself unusual, except that there was a layer of aged varnish on top of it, indicating that the landscape must have been painted considerably later. What cracked the case, Rieppi says, was the presence of a synthetic blue pigment that wasn’t available until 1997.

She is quick to note that AA&R does not authenticate works, it merely produces critical supporting, or damning, evidence. “We provide information that’s an aid for authentication, ruling out anomalous materials or techniques that are inconsistent with an artist’s work,” she says. “Forgers are getting more creative, and they’re aware of the science, but there are some things that they just can’t fake.” Town & Country


German court orders restorer to pay dealer €26,000 after eight-year dispute
Munich-based dealer claimed paintings he sent for cleaning had been ruined

A Munich court has ordered a restorer to pay €26,000 to a dealer who claimed the four oil paintings he sent for cleaning had been ruined. The ruling confirmed an earlier decision by a local court in July and ended a legal process that had dragged on for eight years.

The four paintings included a small oil-on-wood work by the 19th-century German artist Carl Spitzweg called The Writer (1880), which the Munich-based dealer Andreas Baumgartl says is a study for a larger work. He had entrusted the paintings to a restorer, who cannot be named for legal reasons but has been in business for 40 years and works in Bavaria. Baumgartl had claimed that the restorer removed not just the varnish, but also a layer of paint. “They were completely ruined,” he says.

In August, the Munich Upper Regional Court found that the value of the Spitzweg painting had significantly decreased after the faulty restoration. The piece had been valued at €14,000 in 2009, but sold for just €5,500 at Van Ham auction house in Cologne in 2011. “A Spitzweg connoisseur would no longer buy a work like this because he would know [the artist’s] brush strokes, and these have now been changed,” the court said.

The restorer denied the accusations, arguing that the paintings were already in a poor condition when they were brought to him. As well as the Spitzweg, Baumgartl asked him to clean pieces by Alfons Springs, Eduard von Grützner and Ernst Kaiser. The picture by Kaiser was described by a specialist in a court hearing as a “total write-off” after the treatment.

In its August ruling, the court said that comparisons with high-resolution digital photographs showed that the cleaning had removed detail from the paintings. It ruled that the restorer had not observed his trade’s code of conduct and was primarily focused on “taking as little time and effort as possible”. If he had tested smaller quantities of the solvent on a tiny area of the paintings, “it would not have led to this widespread bleaching and dissolution of paint”, the judges said.

“It’s a relief that it’s over,” Baumgartl says. “It was an endlessly long process.” The Art Newspaper


Salvator Mundi’s patchwork provenance now includes a 50-year stop in Louisiana
The work was bought by a Baton Rouge family for about $120 while travelling in London in 1958, the Wall Street Journal reports

The contemporary saga of the 16th-century Salvator Mundi painting continues after news broke on Tuesday (18 September) that the work spent nearly 50 years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Wall Street Journal reports that it was part of a family home collection there, the owners of which had no inkling that it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

Currently the most expensive work of art in the world having sold for $450m at Christie’s in New York last November, the long-lost Leonardo painting was in the possession of Basil Clovis Hendry Sr, who owned a Louisiana sheet-metal company, before Old Master dealers Robert Simon and Alexander Parrish bought it from the family's estate sale in New Orleans in 2005 for less than $10,000.

Hendry’s daughter, Susan Hendry Tureau, a 70-year-old retired library technician still living in Louisiana, learned just last week that the painting was reauthenticated as a Leonardo, according to the Wall Street Journal. She doubts whether her father ever considered the work to be such rarity, which is unsurprising given the extensive and heavy-handed restorations it had undergone over the centuries. The work had been handed down to Hendry after the 1987 death of his aunt, Minnie Stanfill Kuntz, who “often travelled to Europe”, where she and her husband frequently purchased art and antiques.

By cross-referencing photographs, auction catalogues, obituaries and travel documents, the Wall Street Journal uncovered that the Kuntzes returned from a trip to England in the summer of 1958, around the same time a portrait of Christ attributed to “the school of da Vinci” was sold at Sotheby’s in London for £45 (about $120) on 25 June 1958, recorded as Kuntz Private Collection USA in the auction house’s official provenance records. That work has been established as a previous misidentification of Salvator Mundi, although the identity of the Kuntz buyer had remained a mystery until now.

The long-lost Leonardo painting has a patchwork provenance that places it in the hands of English kings, Russian oligarchs and, most recently, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yet gaps and overlaps in its ownership history have been the subject of scrutiny among scholars and connoisseurs, as reported on the front page of The Art Newspaper’s September issue. Rumours never cease to swirl around the work, especially after its display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, scheduled for 18 September, was inexplicably delayed.

Dealer Robert Simon, who was instrumental in reattributing Salvator Mundi to Leonardo, says of the recent news: “Of course we knew where we had purchased the painting so that was hardly news for us.” While he also knew the identity of the estate that had consigned it to auction, he had been restricted from divulging the information due to a non-disclosure agreement—the only one he’s ever had to sign in his entire art dealing career. Simon says it is “a relief” to release more details surrounding the work’s history.

“When you consider the amount of literature that’s been written about every other Leonardo out there—most of which have been known for centuries—it’s inevitable that more and more will come to light on this work, which has only been known to the public for a few years,” he says. The Salvator Mundi may hold many more mysteries. But Simon says the Wall Street Journal’s research, if accurate, solves at least one, “how it made its way to from London to Louisiana.” The Art Newspaper

The Bold Colours of Painter Michael Tickner
Artist paints the landscapes of British Columbia

Snuggled up to the base of Sugarloaf mountain in the heart of Nanaimo’s “Sherwood Forest,” Michael Tickner’s new studio is surrounded by many of the same elements so often found in his paintings: craggy-topped mountains, a view of a blue-grey sea, swathes of green in the evergreens and shrubs.

The London, England-born Tickner and his wife made the move to the Island three years ago after spending nearly three decades in Lions Bay on the mainland; he moved into his new artistic digs at the beginning of last year.

“We knew we loved it here,” he says. “Many Augusts, we used to tour the Island. Being over here, it’s like living in Vancouver in the ‘70s.” The move came as Tickner was nearing the 45th year in his artistic career, and it’s a career that has been enormously successful.

Tickner, 71, became a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, of the Fine Arts Trade Guild of England, and has had his art commissioned for a number of public spaces, including SkyTrain pillars, a 30-foot mural at Richmond General Hospital, an eight-foot salmon at the Richmond Public Library for the Save Our Salmon Foundation and an eight-foot orca, located at the waterfront park at Port McNeil, for the BC Chapter of the Lions Organization.

His charity work has been long and varied, with contributions and art donations made to the Ronald McDonald House, Vancouver Children’s Hospital, Children’s Help Phone and many more. And he’s also been kept steadily busy with private commissions and his own inspirations through the years.

But there was a time when art was the last thing on his mind.

Tickner was accepted into the prestigious London School of Art when he was just 16 years old, but because he was too young, he was forced to defer his enrolment for one year. It was a year he spent recovering from jaundice, and at the end of it, “the last thing I wanted to do was go back to school, any school,” he says.

Instead, he ended up working in business for a number of years (“logistics, materials handling”), where he met his wife, and through her was introduced to Vancouver Island.

“She was born in Port Alberni and grew up in Sechelt,” says Tickner.

After doodling a gnarled tree on a scrap piece of paper for her one afternoon, he quietly rediscovered his love for art, and with the support of his new wife, dedicated his future to his art career.

“That sparked something. We ran away to the south coast of England, to Brighton, and I sold paintings on the seafront,” he says with a smile. It’s one of the romantic stories of his life, and one he loves to tell.

His passion for paint rekindled, he began working in earnest, and continued when they moved to Canada. He experimented with a palette knife and ink washes in the 1970s, and in the mid-‘80s produced a series of detailed pen and ink drawings of British Columbia scenes.

Then in 1987, he developed his current style, what some have called a mix of primitive and contemporary techniques, with the help of his then eight-year-old son.

“I created with his help because he handed me the paints,” he says with a laugh.

The first piece was of a teddy bear flying a kite, and his repertoire expanded hugely from there.

Focusing largely on landscapes, Tickner began catching the bus into Stanley Park nearly every day with his paints and easel under his arm to work en plein air, “testing out the new stuff” and selling his 5”x7” originals for $35 each.

Tickner was in Stanley Park for one summer when the Horizon’s West Gallery invited him into their space and had a sell-out show for him the following January.

Fast-forward to now, his smallest originals sell for $995, and he has collectors who come from around the world to select their next pieces of his art.

With his work’s bold colours and black outlines, Tickner is often asked if he was influenced by the late Ted Harrison, but it’s actually English artist Colin Ruffell to whom Tickner likens parts of his work.

Ruffell’s work is “off the beaten track a bit,” says Tickner. And while Ruffell uses an ink wash to “antique” his work, the two artists both use black outlining with similar effect. In regards to Harrison’s work, Tickner took the primitive style — two-dimensional blocks of colour surrounded by lines — and added depth and perspective, making it unique in its own right.

“There may be aspects of other people’s [styles],” says Tickner of his work. “But you’re always evolving.”

He approaches his pieces as though they’re “an agreement between the viewer and the artist. You have to keep people looking at the picture. The longer they look, the more likely that they’ll see something to connect with.”

Look carefully at any one of his paintings, and you’ll find your eye drawn to a single focus, as is often the case in art. And from that focal point, your eye will travel up a path, or over a cresting wave, and then perhaps meet a tree reaching for the sky or a unique cloud, but there’s always something that keeps you in the frame.

Many of his pieces are inspired by landscapes in Whistler, Howe Sound and through Vancouver. Gazing at one of Tickner’s pieces feels like going for a stroll, and the more you look, the more the ground feels familiar.

“You buy a painting because it agrees with something you already have in your head,” he says.

That may be a memory, a feeling or an image, and Tickner is adept at forging that connection.

With originals for sale at Vancouver’s Pousette Gallery, 22 images in print in a variety of mediums and a steady stream of commissions, Tickner has no plans for slowing down his illustrious art career. And if the clutter and chaos of setting up his new studio become overwhelming, he can always step outside to breathe in the ocean view, and relax in the little pocket of serenity he’s claimed for his own.

And perhaps the Island vistas will inspire a new series of paintings. Houston Today



"Blue Boy" is getting a long-awaited makeover, and the public can watch as one of the world's most recognizable paintings gets a little nip here, a nice tuck there and some splashes of fresh paint (blue presumably) just in time for the eternally youthful adolescent to mark his 250th birthday.

Thomas Gainsborough's stunning oil on canvas featuring a British youth dressed nearly all in blue has been one of the most sought-out attractions at Southern California's Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens since its arrival in 1921.

But it hasn't had a substantial restoration in at least 97 years, and over time it's become a bit torn and tattered, some of its colors have faded and, worse still, some of its paint is beginning to flake.

All that begins to stop Saturday when The Huntington's senior paintings conservator, Christina O'Connell, goes to work armed with an array of 21st century tools to restore an 18th century masterpiece.

She'll have a microscope that, at 6 feet (1.8 meters), is taller than she is and can zoom in on the painting's smallest details and magnify them 25 times. She'll have numerous digital X-radiography and infrared reflectography images of the work that she's been compiling and studying over the past year. And, of course, there will be paint created to match what Gainsborough was using circa 1770.

With all that at her disposal she expects to have "Project Blue Boy" completed about this time next year and the kid back on The Huntington's Thornton Gallery wall, alongside other stunning portraits from the era, sometime in early 2020.

As O'Connell toils in the same area where "Blue Boy" has hung for nearly a century, visitors will be able to walk up and watch what she's doing. And, during occasional breaks, she'll stop to explain it to them.

"One of the reasons why the painting hasn't undergone such an extensive conservation treatment before was because people always wanted to keep it on view. So this is a way to address the conservation needs of the painting while keeping it on view — so the visitors won't miss him," she said with a smile as she took a break from her work in the gallery earlier this week.

Indeed, "Blue Boy" — whoever he was — has become a worldwide icon since Gainsborough put him on display to acclaim at Britain's Royal Academy exhibition of 1770. The artist titled the work, "A Portrait of a Young Gentleman," but when stunned viewers saw the full-length portrait of an adolescent dressed all in bright blue silk, from his tunic to the breeches extending just below his knees, they quickly gave him a nickname.

Although Gainsborough, one of the greatest British painters of the 18th century, is renowned as a master of the brush, O'Connell says she won't be nervous while a crowd watches her every move when she takes up her own brush to add touches — inpainting, it's called — to replace what the painting has lost to the ravages of time.

"We're dealing with a lot of the usual suspects when it comes to a painting this age as far as condition issues are concerned," she said, adding she's repaired much worse, including a painting that was once handed to her in pieces.

Still, this is "Blue Boy" so she'll take her time. When The Huntington's founder, railroad tycoon Henry Huntington, bought it in 1921, he paid a then-record sum of $728,000. Some Britons were reported to have cried when they learned their boy was leaving his native country.

Art historians have never figured out exactly who "Blue Boy" was, although they have a pretty good suspect, said Melinda McCurdy, The Huntington's associate curator for British art and O'Connell's partner in the restoration project.

"It could be an image of Gainsborough Dupont, who was the artist's nephew," McCurdy said. "He lived with the family so he would have been a readily available model. And we know that the blue suit was a studio prop that the artist owned."

Dupont, looking a few years older than "Blue Boy," but not that much different, appears in the same suit in other Gainsborough paintings.

"Blue Boy," it turns out, also had a dog until Gainsborough painted it out of the picture. The kid's furry friend was discovered in a 1994 X-ray that also is on display at O'Connell's work station, along with X-rays that reveal nearly a foot-long tear in the canvas that was repaired so well it can't be seen with the naked eye.

What can be seen was when the tear was fixed, it was painted over with a color that didn't quite match the original. O'Connell plans to fix that.

She'll leave out the dog, however. You can still see its front paws, which Gainsborough cleverly turned into rocks when he blended the rest of the canine into the landscape.

"Composition choice, really," McCurdy speculates on the artist's reasons for sacking the pooch.

"If the white fluffy dog was there in the painting you'd spend a lot of attention on it rather than looking at the figure of the boy."

The boy is indeed what many who visit The Huntington's picturesque grounds come to see, along with the institution's gardens filled with 15,000 varieties of plants, its library containing nearly a half-million rare books and its hundreds of other priceless paintings and sculptures.

Which is why, says McCurdy, it's important that people see the care, which isn't cheap or easy, that must be taken to maintain such objects.

"We're not just a building with pretty things on the wall," she says. "We take care of them. We preserve them for the future." WSB Radio


New Research Finds that Caravaggio Died of Sepsis, Not Syphilis
Before established a certain cause of death for the Baroque painter, scientists first had to find his body.

The truth was hidden in his teeth.

A serial gambler with a penchant for prostitutes, booze, and brawls, art historians have largely agreed for the last four centuries that Caravaggio died of syphilis in 1610. However, new research conducted by a team of seven French and Italian scientists at the IHU Méditerranée Infection Institute of Marseille and published in a journal of infectious diseases, called The Lancet, has concluded that the irascible artist ultimately succumbed to an infected sword wound.

The killer, in this case, was staphylococcus. Researchers were able to detect the bacteria through microbes extracted from the remaining blood vessels within the Baroque artist’s teeth.

Caravaggio was born Michelangelo Merisi in 1571 near Milan. Having already gained substantial acclaim as a painter by his early twenties, he was the toast of Rome before fleeing the eternal city in 1606 after killing another man in a street fight. He then traveled through southern Italy as an exile and fugitive, wandering through places like Malta and Sicily.

But finding Caravaggio’s skeleton was the first challenge for this team of scientists to overcome. Tracking his body to a cemetery in Porte Ercole (where the artist died after fleeing Naples) researchers screened remains for a male of 1.65 meters (~5 feet and 5 inches) in height between the ages of 35 and 40. Nine were found in total, but only one dated from the seventeenth century, according to a carbon 14 test. One of the study’s authors, Michel Drancourt, confirmed with the newspaper El País that genetic comparisons with other inhabitants of Porte Ercole bearing the surname Caravaggio verified the match.

Particularly helpful in confirming the match was a strong presence of lead in the skeleton’s bones. Caravaggio was known to be careless when using lead for painting, and some scholars have even speculated that he died of poisoning from the substance despite contemporary reports that the painter died of a fever. Hyperallergic


Putting the joy back into her painting
Long-time instructor Jannie Fetter sees lasting value in Bob Ross' teaching style, gentle encouragement

Bob Ross’ gentle encouragement led Jannie Fetter to pick up a paint brush again.

She needed that safe nudge. Years earlier, a disheartening comment in school led Fetter to discard her art supplies as teenager. A decade later, she’d watched Ross’ PBS television series “The Joy of Painting,” with the fuzzy-haired, soft-spoken artist guiding viewers to paint mountains and forests along with him, reminding them “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” She realized her passion for art never left her, even if her brushes were long gone. So, Fetter signed up for a Terre Haute oil painting class taught by Nancy Young, a certified Bob Ross instructor.

Ross wasn’t in the classroom physically, but his influence was clear.

“You wouldn’t believe the patience of this lady,” Fetter recalled of Young last week. “I fell in love with the painting [style] right away.”

The experience revived Fetter’s artistic spirit. Inspired, she soon earned her own Bob Ross certification — a one-year commitment that sent her to Kansas City, Missouri, for several one-week training sessions. She’s now one of more than 2,000 certified instructors in the nation teaching the Ross style as independent contractors, according to an estimate by Doug Hallgren, director of the Bob Ross Workshop in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Fetter’s husband encouraged her to pursue that goal and rearranged his vacation time to watch their kids while Jannie trained in Missouri.

That was the mid-1990s, more than two decades ago. Fetter’s been teaching folks ages 9 to 98 to paint landscapes, Ross style, ever since. Fetter paints in that style at home, too, with an easel perched in her living room and paintings of lush gardens, majestic snow scenes and waterfalls adorning the walls.

Like Ross, Fetter focuses on the joy. Students in her monthly painting classes at Terre Haute’s Hobby Lobby store get plenty of encouragement.

Marty Hendricks can attest to that. He’s a professional landscaper who readily admits, “the only thing I’d ever painted was a friggin’ mailbox.” On a trip to Hobby Lobby to buy his daughter a gift, Hendricks spotted a “pretty cool” painting and information about a Bob Ross class. He signed up. At the class, Hendricks explained to Fetter that one of his landscaping company’s services is designing patios.

“She goes, ‘You’re probably an artist down deep but don’t know it,’” he said, laughing.

After almost a year of painting classes, Hendricks has created pieces that “flabbergasted” his wife and brother. He even paints at home on weekends when bad weather halts his landscaping work.

Ross’ low-pressure, finish-a-painting-in-a-day approach motivates art newcomers, Fetter believes. “Most people that start with Bob get the encouragement they need and the confidence they need,” she said, “and they can go on to do really amazing things.”

As popular as ever

Ross’ popularity seems equally amazing. He died of lymphoma in 1995 at age 52. His passing ended production of “The Joy of Painting,” which was filmed in Muncie’s WIPB studios and aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994, with a total of 403 episodes. Public fascination with Ross continued long after his death, though. In fact, his persona and program may be as popular as ever today.

The official Bob Ross YouTube channel began carrying reruns of “The Joy of Painting” in 2015. That same year, the live streaming website Twitch ran a marathon of his shows. In 2016, Netflix started offering to streamers repackaged Ross shows from the early ‘90s. Amazon and Hulu also carry programs. Recordings of Ross’ soothing voice, almost a whisper in baritone, were used to create a meditation app to help insomniacs fall asleep. His bushy Afro, bearded smile and sayings grace a gamut of items from socks to bobble-head dolls, T-shirts, coffee mugs, blankets, coloring books and, of course, paint supplies.

The exposure has attracted new generations of fans.

“There’s definitely been an upsurge in interest, especially among young people,” Hallgren said last week by phone from the coastal Florida workshop south of Daytona Beach. The workshop’s gallery of original paintings by Ross attracts thousands of visitors yearly. It’s hard to pinpoint one reason for the revived fascination, particularly among youths, aside from the artist himself.

“It’s him,” Hallgren said. “It’s the persona. It’s the calm manner. It’s the extremely simple [TV studio] set, with the black curtain.” Plus, the results culminate in real time. “It’s all done right before your eyes.”

Ross’ image may be more famous than his name. “Most people don’t know his name, but if I say ‘the fuzzy-haired guy who talks real soft,’ they know exactly who it is,” Fetter said.

Fetter followed Ross long before this 21st-century renaissance. She knows the understated legend of the former Air Force drill sergeant who vowed to never again yell at people after his 20-year military career ended. And that Ross, a Florida-born high school dropout, became fascinated with “mighty mountains,” “happy little trees” and “happy little clouds” while stationed at an Air Force base in Alaska.

And most of all, Fetter knows Ross’ wet-on-wet (or “Alla Prima”) method of oil painting — borrowed from his mentor Bill Alexander and iconic painters such as Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet — “still works.” Ross adapted the style, and his brand-name materials, for pupils. His paints go onto canvas in layers, with each less thick than the previous one. Heavy Titanium White, for example, is used to accent mountains in initial layers, while runnier Yellow Ochre adds highlights to trees near a painting’s finish.

Layers need not dry before the next goes on. “So that’s what allows us to do a painting in a day, versus months,” Fetter said. Students take home a finished painting, but it typically needs a month or so to dry.

Connie Shoemaker, who’s studied in Fetter’s Bob Ross class for more than a year, appreciates the speed of the Ross process. “I like that we can get it all done in one day,” Shoemaker said.

The 73-year-old Shoemaker retired from Reuben H. Donnelly Directory in Terre Haute, where she compiled the White Pages of phone books. Her job, she said, didn’t involve artistic skills. She’s surprised herself in Fetter’s classes, bringing home paintings of a covered bridge, the Mansfield Mill, hikers walking through a deep woods, a stream in a dark forest and other scenes.

“I never thought I would paint the paintings I’ve done,” Shoemaker said. “I’d always wanted to, [though].”

A peaceful outlet

Like the serenity of Ross’ old PBS shows, Fetter’s painting class also serves as a respite from the bustle and headaches of everyday life. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s therapy, but it gets you out of your own way for a while,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to paint a Bahamas scene when there’s a foot of snow on the ground outside.”

Art became a soulful outlet for Fetter to endure difficult times. Cancer took the life of Fetter’s sister — who’d strongly encouraged her artistic pursuits — when Jannie was in her 20s. Art “helped me pull through,” said Fetter, now 52. “And, I could go to paint class and people would say, ‘It’s going to be all right.’ It’s not just a paint class, it’s friends.”

Connections sometimes run deep. A woman who’d suffered a stroke came to Fetter’s class a few years ago. She was left-handed, but the stroke debilitated that arm. So, the woman learned to paint right-handed. “She did miraculous things,” Fetter said, pulling from an album a photo of the woman, smiling beside a painting.

Eventually, a second stroke took the woman’s life. Fetter attended her funeral. The woman’s family placed her paintings on display around the casket. “They told me, that was one thing she absolutely loved to do,” Fetter said.

“Sometimes you think, ‘Why am I doing this? Is it really worth it?’” Fetter added. “Then you see something like that.” Tribune Star


In Chicago, can art unite a deeply divided neighborhood?

CHICAGO: Charlie Branda is not an artist. When she opened an art studio on a stretch of asphalt known as Sedgwick Street, the 53-year-old mom and former commercial banker simply wanted to get to know her neighbors and to connect two sides of a thoroughfare that divides black and white, haves and have-nots. "The way it is now isn't the way it has to be," she remembers thinking.

Branda had lived for years in and around Chicago's Old Town neighborhood when she, her husband and two children moved into a red-brick house on the east, and wealthier, side of Sedgwick in 2008.

Initially, she joined with her neighbors to demand that the city, police and absentee landlords do something about drug-dealing and occasional gunfire in the neighborhood. But she also spent a lot of time walking around, ignoring those who advised her to stay on "her side" of the street.

"Hello!" she'd chirp, smiling as she greeted strangers from Marshall

Field Garden Apartments, a subsidized complex on the west side of Sedgwick.

Then in 2013, a young African-American father was fatally shot while on his way to buy diapers, just steps from the Brandas' home. Some residents were ready to move, and at least one family eventually did. But Branda couldn't shake the idea that she didn't even know the family that had lost a loved one.

"She saw us as neighbors," says Adell Thomas, a longtime resident of Marshall Field and president of its tenants' association.

Branda had been reading a book — "Make the Impossible Possible" by William Strickland Jr., a community activist in Pittsburgh who credits a high school art teacher with helping him find his way in life. She kept thinking about an image Strickland described: a ball of clay and how "you can make a miracle with your hands," she recalls.

She began telling people about her vision for a neighborhood art studio, and eventually presented the idea at community meetings. Thomas was inspired and quickly decided: "I want to be part of that." As she got to know Branda, Thomas was surprised to learn she'd grown up in Anchorage, Alaska, with a single mom and modest means. Branda, meanwhile, saw a bit of her tough yet compassionate mom in Thomas.

A board was formed, and in October 2015, the first Art on Sedgwick studio opened in a tiny storefront across the street from Marshall Field Garden Apartments. That day, neighbors stopped to write on a large chalkboard outside the studio that had rows of the unfinished sentence, "Before I die, I want to ______."

"Do Art," one girl wrote. And so it began.

The first classes, including cartoon drawing and embroidery, were small but consistently attended. The victories also were small but satisfying. It started with "just showing up," says Cory Stutts, middle school director at the private Catherine Cook School, two blocks east of Sedgwick Street.

Last year, an effort known informally as "the kite project" brought together sixth-graders from Catherine Cook and Manierre Elementary, a public school tucked behind the Marshall Field apartments. The kids were paired off and instructed to interview one another, asking questions like: "What do you dream about?" ''Do you think about dying?" ''Are you scared?" Then came a portrait session; the photos then were made into kites.

"A group of white kids and black kids playing together — you really don't see that nowadays," marveled Manierre student Eric Evans.

With each art show, class and community event, more people have trickled into Art on Sedgwick. One Saturday each month, a faithful group of adults from varied backgrounds gathers at the studio for a "Sip and Paint," a chance to do art, chat and drink a little wine. Branda and Thomas, now friends, often take part.

"In some ways, I feel like we've accomplished so much in terms of building community and maybe changing the discussion," Branda says. "On the other hand, I feel like we've just barely scratched the surface."

There are people on both sides of Sedgwick who aren't so sure the neighborhood's divides can be bridged. Even as property values on his side of the street have increased, Branda's next-door neighbor, Jerry Capell, says the disconnect is "as wide as it's ever been," and that saddens him.

From her apartment on the other side of the street, Eric Evans' mother, Sherise McDaniel, also still sees very separate worlds.

"I would consider Charlie the exception. Charlie is like a vein connecting those people to us and us to them," says McDaniel, who is African-American and a special education aide at a high school. "I love this neighborhood. ... I love this city. I wish it loved me back."

Branda still walks the neighborhood and greets residents, many of whom know her now. "You can't 'un-connect' us," she insists.

She gets teary when she says this. "I think I'm tired of the divisiveness," she explains.

A while later, outside the Art on Sedgwick studio, a few kids from Marshall Field run to hug her, as they often do.

"Hi, art teacher! Hi, art teacher!" they shout. Branda wraps her arms around all of them, closing her eyes as she squeezes tightly.

She still doesn't consider herself an art teacher.

But she is their neighbor. SFGATE


Hard, soft or no-deal: how the UK art market is preparing for Brexit
Costs, paperwork and shipping delays are among gallery concerns, but experts say there are solutions

Much debate continues to fill the opinion columns on the likely impact of Brexit, with the possibility of a no-deal dominating current discussions and unnerving businesses. As with other markets, the UK and Europe’s art trade has been held in a state of prolonged uncertainty, an uncertainty now shifting to rising unease at the spectre of March’s looming deadline.

But, politics and panic aside, what practical issues will art market professionals face after 29 March 2019, whatever the outcome: hard, soft or no-deal? Costs, paperwork and potential shipping delays at borders are the three areas of most concern and uncertainty, along with the future of London’s art agents who have benefitted from the UK having the lowest import VAT rate in the EU.


Fine art and works of art—covered by harmonised customs codes 9701 to 9706—are currently zero rated for tariffs on EU imports and, therefore, are not subject to import tax. Under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, this means such imports from the UK should also not be subject to import tax after Brexit.

The MEP Daniel Dalton, the leading rapporteur in the debate over EU import licensing proposals for cultural property, has addressed the issue in his regular Brexit briefings. The WTO tariff Most Favoured Nation (MFN) rules state that a country has to apply the same import tariff on a particular good (fine art, for instance) to all countries, Dalton says. So if the EU continues to apply a zero rating to its other trade partners, like the US, it must also do so for the UK.

EU member states can ignore WTO rules on this, but only if they negotiate with the countries affected (in this case, the UK) and that could result in compensation for trading partners’s loss of trade. Therefore, the EU might well have to pay an economic price for any ‘political’ punishment using tariffs. Due to the costly consequences, this seems unlikely to happen.

London’s art agents

London is home to numerous art agents (dealers or brokers working on commission) who have been using the advantage of the UK having the lowest import VAT rate in the EU (5%) to trade on the margin with clients across Europe in recent years.

Take this example: a collector in Spain wants to buy a painting in New York for $100,000. The import VAT rate for Spain is 21%, or $21,000, and other taxes and fees will add, say, around another $9,000, so the buyer faces a total bill of around $130,000, or fees of around 30%.

To avoid these costs, the collector employs a London agent or dealer to buy the picture on their behalf. The agent ships it to London (and thereby into the EU) at an import VAT rate of 5%. Other taxes and costs are minimal compared to Spain, so might add around another $1,000-$2,000. The agent ships the painting to Spain, say at a cost of another $1000. With the total cost of the painting now around $108,000, if the agent charges a fee of $10,000, the collector is still up $12,000 on the deal by using the agent instead of buying direct.

That advantage has slowly been slipping away over the past 18 months or so as other EU countries, particularly France and Spain, have reduced their import VAT rates to be more competitive. Such dealers and brokers acting as agents, therefore, may be tempted to move to Brussels (where there is a reduced import VAT rate of 6%) or Paris (import rate of 5.5%) following Brexit.

Export licence duties among EU member states can also render exporting to a non-EU country uneconomic. Spain, for example, levies a rate of 33%.

Shipping­: a solution

Instead of waiting for politicians to establish a strategy, some firms are taking things into their own hands. Instead of trying to second-guess what deal might be done between the UK and the EU, the art logistics company Gander & White has been putting solutions in place for the past two years.

“Our biggest concern is what will happen at the ports in terms of delays and security,” says the operational director, Victor Khureya, “so what we have done is bring the border post to our warehouse, instead of waiting to process everything in the ports themselves. This means we have authorisation from customs to drive past all the main entry points, which will be very gridlocked if a hard Brexit goes ahead.”

Oliver Howell, the managing director, adds: “The only real concern for dealers and collectors shipping goods will be the additional costs associated with raising and discharging customs transit documents (or T Forms) and guarantees if there is a hard Brexit, as these may have to be applied to every individual shipment.”

Import VAT

Craig Davies, a partner, and Catherine Thompson, a director, at the chartered accountants Rawlinson Hunter, have been advising the art market on Brexit and tax. They highlight the following issues to consider in the event of no deal. Obligations vary between those who export to and import from the EU and those who conduct sales within the EU itself.

• Art imports from the EU to the UK will be treated in the same way as works imported from other countries, with import declarations, customs checks and customs duties. However, instead of having to pay import VAT immediately, UK galleries will be able to delay paying for VAT on all imports, whether from the EU or not, until completing their VAT returns in the usual way, every three months in arrears.

• No VAT will apply to art exported from the UK to the EU, but it might be subject to EU import VAT. In addition, UK galleries will no longer have to complete EC sales lists when exporting works of art; these anti-fraud measures require EU companies to provide details of sales or transfers of goods to VAT-registered companies in other EU countries. However, galleries will still have to retain evidence confirming a work physically left the UK.

• As well as taking EU import VAT into account, British galleries conducting sales within the EU must also account for import VAT rules, while all UK galleries with EU suppliers or clients will have to register for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number for customs purposes. They will also have to ensure that contracts comply with international terms and conditions (so-called Incoterms).

• The UK will continue to follow Supply of Services rules, which are intended to maintain a level playing field for businesses supplying services across the EU. The ‘place of supply rules’ determine which countries’ VAT rules should be considered when selling a work of art.

The gallery view

This is complex stuff, so unsurprisingly many galleries are still perplexed. Uncertainty is the chief concern of some of the many European galleries who have bases in London. “Without clarity on many of the most crucial points, such as VAT and import/export regulations and tariffs, it has been very difficult for us and, I imagine, many other galleries to come up with any definitive contingency plan,” says Ermanno Rivetti of Tornabuoni Arte, which has galleries in Florence, Milan and Paris alongside London. “If costs and logistics become more onerous then we would definitely consider moving.”

Luigi Mazzoleni, of the London- and Turin-based Mazzoleni gallery, says he “intends to keep the London gallery operational after the UK leaves the EU”. But, he adds, “a no-deal Brexit will create extreme uncertainty regarding import/export and logistics, and uncertainty cannot be helpful to business”. The Art Newspaper


Louisiana Supreme Court Ends Rule Banning the Outdoor Sale of Art in New Orleans
A city law effectively banned the outdoor sale of art outside the French Quarter, but one artist has helped to set a new precedent with his win against the code on First Amendment grounds.

Louisiana’s Supreme Court has declared a New Orleans ordinance, which effectively banned the sale of art outside the French Quarter, unconstitutional, after artist Lawrence Clark appealed his case against the law on First Amendment grounds.

Clark’s case began in 2016 when he was issued a citation for selling his creations on the streets of New Orleans without a permit, although police had rarely invoked the ordinance previously. Ostensibly, city authorities have used the law since the 1950sto tightly regulate the economic and cultural landscape of the French Quarter, which has long been the center of the city’s tourism industry.

The city code makes it a crime punishable by up to six months in jail or a $500 fine to sell art outdoors without a license. Further, artists are only allowed to obtain licenses for selling their wares within Jackson Square, Edison Park, and the alleys near St. Louis Cathedral. But obtaining one of these special permits is famously difficult. Jackson Square, for example, has capped its license allotment at around 200 since 1978, for which artists must typically enter a lottery drawing.

With the assistance of his lawyer, Laura Bixby of the Orleans Public Defenders, Clark helped bring the arcane code to the Supreme Court’s attention after winding the case through several lower courts and losing. During their appeal, Bixby argued that the code’s legislative history revealed it to be an attempt by the 1950s city council to control the overcrowding of Jackson Square.

The state supreme court’s majority opinion acknowledges that governments may impose reasonable restrictions on First Amendment rights if the limitations are narrowly tailored and leave open ample alternative channels for communication. Bixby argued, however, that the ordinance was overwrought because it imposed too high a burden on all artists in New Orleans, restricting them from accessing potential clientele based outside the French Quarter and creating a high barrier to enter a market that’s legally considered free-speech territory. In granting Clark’s motion to quash the charges against him, the Louisiana Supreme Court painted the ordinance as an unconstitutional restriction on a citizen’s freedom of expression.

The precedent that this case will set for New Orleans — and possibly other cities around the United States looking for a roadmap of how to regulate the outdoor art market — is major. When asked by the Times-Picayune about what the Supreme Court decision means for city artists, Bixby implied that it would allow artists to set up shop anywhere they please. “Not in the middle of the road,” she cautioned, but in far more public places than previously allowed.

Bixby also credited Clark with the decision to defend his case on First Amendment grounds. But the defendant has since moved away from New Orleans, and Bixby told the Times-Picayune that she does not know if any of her attempts to notify Clark of his success have reached him.

There are more legal battles on the horizon for Louisiana’s art scene. In March 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging New Orleans’ right to restrict murals painted on private property. In particular, the city ordered street artist Cashy D to remove his anti-Trump artwork on South Liberty Street. Created in November 2017, the work spells out President Donald Trump’s misogynist comments about groping women, which were publicized by the release of an Access Hollywood tape during the 2016 presidential election. The ACLU intends to use a similar argument for the mural artist as Bixby used for Clark: defending art on freedom-of-speech grounds. Hyperallergic