Art sensations

Voice of Russia 16 December 2013
The greatest art find of the year, or better yet, of the century, definitely ensured that 2013 would stick in our memory. A cache of some 1,500 "lost" paintings by world-renowned artists has been discovered by Bavarian customs police in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of well-known pre-war art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. 

The younger Gurlitt had kept the masterpieces in darkened rooms of his Munich apartment for over half a century, selling the occasional painting when he needed money. The cache contains works by dozens of 20th-century European masters including Marc Chagall, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Liebermann.The paintings were bought by Gurlitt while the Nazis were in power from 1933 to 1945, but were previously believed to have been destroyed during the bombing of Dresden. Gurlitt was hired by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to sell the “degenerate art” but the art dealer bought some pieces for himself. However, it is likely that most of the works in the Munich hoard were not part of the Degenerate Art collection but are works seized from French Jews during the Occupation, says Anne Webber, of the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe.

“Germany along with 44 other countries signed the Washington Principles in 1998 and 1999, making a commitment to identifying the looted works in their collections and publishing the results. Bavarian state collections contain thousands of works acquired during the Nazi period, but they have failed to publish any list. An annotated catalogue of one of the main dealers of the Nazi era was discovered, saying which families the works were taken from and their eventual owners. This would be fantastically useful to the families concerned who are hoping to create a link with their past”.

Another art sensation of the year is the record sale of Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud”, a 1969 triptych which fetched $142.4 million at Christie’s and became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. The painting was in great demand by Asian bidders due to the magic of the artwork’s positioning in lot 8A in the catalogue - says Eli Klein, whose Manhattan gallery specializes in contemporary Chinese art.

“Eight is a lucky number in China. It’s not going to make or break a deal, but it’s preferable to Chinese collectors. If they have a chance to buy edition No. 8, they would.”

The price for the painting, which depicts Lucian Freud, Bacon’s friend and rival, perched on a wooden chair, was much more than the $85 million Christie’s had estimated and bested the May 2012 record when Edward Munch’s pastel of “The Scream” was sold at Sotheby’s for $119.9 million. Looks like the art world would remember 2013 as a year of great gains.
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