Skip to main content

George Zakos and Chicago

Readers of The Medici Conspiracy will be aware of the links between Robert Hecht and George Zakos. In 2008 the Art Institute of Chicago acquired some 58 votives, perhaps derived from Thessaly in Greece [Annual Report]. They date to the Geometric and archaic periods. The collecting history of the pieces is given as follows:
George Zakos of Basel, Switzerland since at least 1965 as reported by the owner of Ariadne Galleries to Mrs. Walter Alexander [email in curatorial file]; purchased by Ariadne Galleries of New York, New York in or around 1975; purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Alexander of Geneva, Illinois in 1985; donated to the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois in 2008.
These objects now appear on the AAMD Object Registry. Their acquisition is justified as follows:
based on the results of provenance research, the Art Institute of Chicago can make an informed judgment that the object was outside its probable country of modern discovery before 1970. The collection of fifty-eight objects was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Alexander in 1985 from Ariadne Galleries of New York, New York. According to Mrs. Walter Alexander, the owner of Ariadne Galleries reported to her that he purchased the entire collection from George Zakos of Basel, Switzerland, around 1975, and that it was his understanding that Mr. Zakos had owned the objects for at least ten years. The Art Institute of Chicago has been unable to confirm this information with Mr. Zakos, as he is now deceased.
The Ariadne Galleries are linked to the handling of the Icklingham Bronzes removed from Suffolk, England.

So how did the curatorial staff at the Art Institute of Chicago pursue a due diligence search? Did they see authenticated documentation? Did they research the background of the dealers? When did these Thessalian antiquities leave Greek soil?

And what does this acquisition tell us about the then President and Director of the AIC, James Cuno?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.