The .ART Art Market Recap: Repatriation, The Return of Fake German Heiress, A Lost Titian Returned, and more!

This week we have it all; Basquiat’s record Making Auction Night, Anna Delvey’s Solo Exhibition, A Lost Titian Found, and Stolen NFTs.

Britain’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum is returning artifacts to Siksika First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada, once belonging to the 19th-century Blackfoot leader, Chief Crowfoot. Objects including a knife with a feather bundle, beaded bags, buckskin shirts and leggings and a deer hide necklace to signify bravery are amongst the items to be returned. His descendant Chief Ouray Crowfoot remarked in a statement that “Bringing these items back home to Siksika is a historic event…Many items left Siksika and other Nations and were scattered across the globe. Now the tides are turning and these items are finding their way back home.” Once a common practice for European colonists to ‘collect’ cultural items from Indigenous and First Nation communities within North America, the age of Truth and Reconciliation has shed light on these previous behaviours and exposed the sorted history of ‘collecting’ and ‘exchanging’ cultural sacred artifacts, artworks and ceremonial items for European goods, land and rights.

This move by Exeter’s RAMM falls in line with other major global institutions taking stock of their collections and the previous collecting practices of museums and repatriating objects and artifacts to their ancestral lands and communities. The return of the items was originally scheduled for 2020 after the Exeter city council unanimously voted in favour of their return to Siksika Nation, however, the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed the return. In a statement, the city’s deputy leader Laura Wright said: “I feel very honoured to be here today to see the current Chief Crowfoot and his council, members of his family and the Blackfoot people here in Exeter to receive back into their ownership the artifacts that are here.”

Once the pieces have been returned to Canada, they will be displayed in the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, a museum that focuses on Siksika cultural heritage.

The Spring auctions have been a rousing success with a stunning Jean-Michel Basquiat from the esteemed collection of Yusaku Maezawa sold at Phillips as a major highlight. The 1982 work, “Untitled”, realized a historic $85 million in the white glove May 18th New York auction which contributed to the firm’s most successful night of sales in their history. The work had been purchased in 2004 for $4.5 million by New York Dealer Adam Lindmann, who later would sell the work at auction for a then-record of $57.3 million. The recent purchase of the work has now become the third-highest price realized for a work by the artist–the top price having been set by Maezawa which the purchase of another 1982 works for $110.5 million in 2017.

Basquiat produced over 1,500 paintings in his short eight-year career as an artist, an astonishing figure considering the scale and complexity of the works. Tony Shafrazi, the New York dealer who held the famed 1985 exhibition of collaborative paintings between Andy Warhol and Basquiat, reminisced that “Untitled” was once a work that he couldn’t find a buyer for in 1991, in a grouping of 17 works by the artist. As always in the art market, the ebbs and flows of trends and taste can still surprise!

Basquiat’s “Untitled”, 1982 at Philips on February 28, 2022 in London, England.

Inventing an artist? The famed art and finance world scammer, Anna Sorokin, made increasingly famous by the Netflix drama series, “Inventing Anna”, had a one-night-only solo show aptly entitled “Allegedly”, at the Public Hotel in New York’s Lower East Side. The show opened with a club-like atmosphere with Manhattan’s glitterati lining up in their designer best awaiting the doormen to mark their hands for entry into the trendy hotel. The works were later paraded out via black-clad models, faces covered with black pantyhose and sunglasses, a nod to the infamy of Sorokin’s ‘alleged’ crimes. The opening night was a carefully curated event of Sorokin’s supporters, artists, social elites and the curious bystander eager to see the artist’s next move.

A highlight of the event was the fake German heiresses videoconference into the event exclaiming her excitement for the collection of works she had worked on for months while detained by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) in upstate Orange County. Inspired by her time in prison, the media attention of the case, and her commitment to the Anna Delvey Foundation, the 20 drawings collectively were purportedly valued at $500,000 USD and available for purchase.

Photograph: Courtesy of Instagram/ilanasedaka

A long-lost Titian painting has been found by Italian authorities. The artist’s 1512 painting “Gentiluomo con berretto nero (Portrait of a Man with a Beret)”, a red-bearded man stares out of the picture with a stern expression. Italy’s Carabibieri for the Protection of Italy’s Cultural Heritage, a specialized art crimes unit, has recovered the painting and returned it to Italy after the work had been lost since 2004. The cultural protection unit at first believed that the work had been illegally smuggled to Switzerland, however a tip led the unit to a workshop in the Asti area of Piedmont. Upon discovering the work, the Carabibieri confiscated the work and returned it to the Italian state at a May 19th ceremony. Two Swiss citizens are currently under investigation.

Although currently valued at almost $7 million USD, the work is not without speculation. Authorities on Titian have doubts about the style and subject matter of the piece, calling into question the attribution of the work. Andrea Donati, considered one of the most authoritative scholars of Tiziano Vecellio and Renaissance art states, “I cannot even see the shadow of Titian in this portrait,” and calls the attribution “sensationally wrong.”

The painting Portrait of a Man with a Beret, attributed to Titian, is held by members of the Carabinieri in Turin during the restitution ceremony to the Italian state. Photo: Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images.

A phishing scam targeting the Twitter account of digital artist Beeple made off with over $400,000 USD in cryptocurrency and NFTs on May 22nd. Hackers were able to gain access to Beeple’s Twitter account for approximately five hours, tweeting out two separate links to a malicious website that would drain victims’ MetaMask wallets of Ethereum and high-value NFTs such as Mutant Ape Yacht Club, VeeFriends and Otherdeeds. The scam promoted a raffle for a collaboration with Louis Vuitton with “Beeple” tweeting to his 673,000 followers: “Been working on this with LV for a long time behind the scenes. 1000 total unique pieces […] Official Raffle Below. 1 ETH = 1 Raffle Entry. All non-winning entries are refunded post raffle. Good luck :).”

Although flagged by a MetaMask security employee, the first tweet netted the attackers around 36 Ether (roughly $73,000 USD), while the second attack, saw nearly $365,000 in NFTs and crypto exchange hands. Later on Sunday, Beeple tweeted that he had regained control over his account, warning his followers to be vigilant and mindful of similar scams. “Anything too good to be true IS A F*CKING SCAM,” he wrote. “And as a side note, there will never be a SURPRISE MINT I mention one time in one place starting at 6am Sunday morning.”

The scam is part of an increasing instanced of fraudulent attacks on NFTs in recent history with OpenSea, Yuga Labs and private collectors being targeted.

Mike Winkelmann at his exhibition, “Beeple: Uncertain Future.” Photo: Katya Kazakina.

Katlin Rogers
Katlin Rogers
Katlin is a Toronto-based fine art specialist and appraiser. She holds a Master’s in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London and enjoys writing on topics surrounding the globalization of the art world, politics and ethics in art, and post-colonial theories in contemporary art.