Skip to main content


Showing posts from September, 2009

Symes sale at Bonhams

Colin Gleadell has discussed the forthcoming sale of Symes material by Bonhams ("Art Sales: the last remains of a scandal", Daily Telegraph, 28 September 2009). The sale, "The Robin Symes Collection", is due to be held in Oxford on October 7, 2009 [sale]. The sale catalogue states:
Robin Symes Ltd. is in liquidation, and the items are being sold by the liquidators who make no warranty as to title, but have been given no reason to believe that good title cannot be passed. Lots are sold strictly on this basis and, if in doubt, buyers should seek their own legal advice.
Gleadell makes an ineresting comment about this sale:
The property in the Bonhams sale is, however, undisputed, and is to be sold without a reserve price. Estimates are therefore rock bottom. The focus is on an eclectic array of art works which Symes had either in his gallery in Ormond Yard in St James’s, or in one of his homes; Bonhams is not sure. Nor does Bonhams know when or where the work…

Rome Exhibition: L'Arma per l'Arte

At the end of last week I was able to visit the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome for the new exhibition, 'L'Arma per l'Arte: Antologia di meraviglie'. This show celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale. There are 60 exhibits including paintings and other works of art.

The exhibition contains a selection of the objects returned from North America as well as some other recovered antiquities:
1. Protocorinthian olpe. Formerly Princeton University Art Museum 995-149.
2. Caeretan hydria. Odysseus and Polyphemos. Formerly Shelby White collection (and on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
3. Attic black-figured cup. Symposium. Formerly Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum 87.AE.22.
4. Attic red-figured calyx-krater. Zeus and Ganymede. Eucharides painter. Formerly Shelby White collection (and on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
5. Attic red-figured calyx-krater. Orestes.  Formerl…

Egyptian antiquities from a family collection ...

A former museum director was charged earlier this week with trying to sell Egyptian antiquities apparently removed from Long Island University's art museum (Kieran Crowley and Kati Cornell, "'Thief' squawks like an Egyptian", The New York Post September 17, 2009)

Barry Stern is alleged to have sold nine Egyptian antiquities through Christie's in New York, Rockefeller Plaza, for some $51,500. Some of the lots can be identified in the catalogue:

December 9, 2008
Lot 8: AN EGYPTIAN LIMESTONE SHABTI FOR MONTEMHET. $12,500. "Property from the collection of Barry Stern". Provenance: "Acquired by the current owner's parents, circa 1955."Lot 27: AN EGYPTIAN WOOD PTAH-SOKER-OSIRIS. $8,125. "Property from the collection of Barry Stern". Provenance: "Acquired by the current owner's parents, circa 1955."Lot 33: AN EGYPTIAN BRONZE IMHOTEP. $9,375. "Property from the collection of Barry Stern". Provenance: "Acqu…

Robin Symes, the furniture collection and the "shady lady"

Mark Townsend ("The dealer, the $10m and the missing art treasures: Family of trader's late partner allege new twist in decade-long fight for control of collection", The Observer September 13, 2009) has provided a fuller account of the furniture collection that was once displayed in the Chelsea home shared by Robin Symes and Christo Michaeilidis. Townsend reports:
Private investigators hired to accrue evidence against Symes now claim to have exposed a fresh trail of duplicity, double-dealing and evidence of money laundering involving the Gray artefacts, a well-known French bank and the transfer of suspicious payments to accounts in London, Liechtenstein and Gibraltar. During the course of their inquiry, detectives examined allegations involving a mystery blaze on a luxury Greek yacht and a fictitious millionairess from the Middle East.It is reported that the furniture had been bought by the Michailidies family. The article continues:
Investigators for the Michailidis famil…

Robin Symes and the furniture collection

A report in the London press talks about a new development over Robin Symes (Peter Dominiczak, "Antiquities Dealer and a missing £18M collection", Evening Standard September 14, 2009). Apparently furniture designed by Eileen Gray - worth some £18 million - has gone missing. It is reported:
Mr Michailidis's family claim that Mr Symes discreetly sold off the collection before a court order was granted to freeze his assets. Mr Symes, 69, served a jail sentence in 2005 for disregarding court orders over the sale of a £3 million Egyptian statue.

Olympia: theft from Byzantine church

A capital from the Byzantine church built on the site of Pheidias' workshop at Olympia has apparently been stolen ("Ancient column capital missing from Ancient Olympia", Athens News Agency September 7, 2009; Hellenic Ministry of culture [press release]). The architectural fragment measures 30 cm x 30 cm x 20 cm.

A police investigation is now underway.

Church on the site of the workshop of Pheidias, Olympia © David Gill

Reflecting on the Significance of Operation Blackhole

Back in 1991 the British press was full of investigations relating to a particular auction house. Among the stories was the London dealer who denied that he had hidden in a wardrobe during a police raid in India (Sarah Jane Checkland, "Sotheby's expert denies hiding", The Times (London) November 28, 1991).

Now 18 years is a long time ... but something caught my eye. In 2007 Patrick Radden Keefe wrote up the issue of Indian antiquities ("The Idol Thief; Inside one of the biggest antiquities-smuggling rings in history", The New Yorker May 7, 2007). It starts with the June 2003 arrest of Vaman Narayan Ghiya in Jaipur, India. The article, well worth a read, eventually turns to Peter Watson's investigations of the mid 1990s and documented in Sotheby's: Inside Story (1997). Watson records the way that a former employee of the auction house, James Hodges, disclosed information. Keefe puts it like this:
Hodges explained that Ghiya was "a kind of Indian Med…