Wu Guanzhong (Chinese, 1919-2010), hand-painted ink and color scroll featuring black swans. Auctioned on Nov. 21, 2008 by Shanghai Auctions. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Shanghai Auctions.

In Memoriam: Chinese modernist painter Wu Guanzhong, 90

Wu Guanzhong (Chinese, 1919-2010), hand-painted ink and color scroll featuring black swans. Auctioned on Nov. 21, 2008 by Shanghai Auctions. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Shanghai Auctions.

Wu Guanzhong (Chinese, 1919-2010), hand-painted ink and color scroll featuring black swans. Auctioned on Nov. 21, 2008 by Shanghai Auctions. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com Archive and Shanghai Auctions.

BEIJING (AP) – Wu Guanzhong, known as one of the fathers of modern Chinese art for combining western and Chinese elements in black and white oil paintings, has died. He was 90.

He died in Beijing on Friday.

“He was an inspiration for many Chinese artists, even to this day and one of the most important forces in modern Chinese art,” Tan Ping, vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, said in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday. “This is a very sad loss for the art world.”

Born in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu in 1919, Wu left to study western painting at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-arts in Paris in 1947. He returned to China in 1950 to teach at Tsinghua University and the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He later became known for integrating traditional Chinese ink brush techniques with a contemporary western flair in both ink and oil paintings of landscapes, architecture, animals and people.

Wu’s works have become very valuable in recent years. Earlier this month, his oil painting from 1974 depicting the Yangtze River sold for $8.4 million at a Beijing auction.

Despite selling his works for millions, Wu also wanted the public to enjoy his art, his son Wu Keyu was cited as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. Wu Keyu said that was why his father insisted on donating his best works to public museums instead of selling them.

In 2008, Wu Guanzhong donated 113 oil and ink paintings valued at $53 million to the Singapore Art Museum. Just shortly before his death, Wu donated five pieces to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, bringing to 52 his total contribution of works to the museum, Xinhua said.

Internationally, Wu gained attention in 1992 by becoming the first living Chinese artist to exhibit at the British Museum and was recognized by the French Ministry of Culture for his accomplishments in 1991.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-06-28-10 0605EDT

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1573-1610), The Taking of Christ, circa 1602, oil on canvas.

Police seize stolen Caravaggio, make arrests

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1573-1610), The Taking of Christ, circa 1602, oil on canvas.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1573-1610), The Taking of Christ, circa 1602, oil on canvas.

BERLIN (AP) – A Caravaggio painting stolen from a museum in Ukraine two years ago was recovered by police as four men tried to sell it in Berlin, official said Monday.

Police confiscated the circa-1602 painting – known as The Taking of Christ, or The Kiss of Judas – and arrested the three Ukrainians and a Russian on Friday, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office said.

They are believed to be members of an international gang of art thieves, and 20 other suspected members of it were arrested in Ukraine, the police said.

The painting, worth several million euros, was stolen from the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in Odessa, Ukraine, in July 2008 by thieves who entered the museum at night and cut the painting out of its frame.

Anke Spriestersbach, a police spokeswoman, declined to release any information about the potential buyer, saying the investigation is still under way.

The arrests in Berlin were made in cooperation with Germany’s special GSG 9 forces and Ukrainian police.

Caravaggio, a Baroque master from Italy, was known for his dramatic use of light, novel perspective and the use of ordinary people in religious and mythological scenes.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-ES-06-28-10 1032EDT

 

Official White House portrait of Pres. Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Historical society’s Presidential collection lacks only one signature

Official White House portrait of Pres. Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Official White House portrait of Pres. Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, painted by Everett Raymond Kinstler.

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) – When the Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society received an original signature from Barack Obama late last year, it nearly completed its collection of signatures from all of the 44 U.S. presidents with one exception – Ronald Reagan.

“The greatest rarity of the signatures is the Reagan signature because 99 percent of the letters that came out of the White House in Reagan’s administration were signed with electric pen,” said Dennis Latta, a society member. “Reagan was averse to signing letters and so he let the secretaries do it.”

Latta said society members have been in contact with U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar about getting a Reagan signature to complete the collection.

“The danger and difficulty is getting the original signature because so many documents are signed by facsimile,” he said. “They use the electronic pen over and over again. If you get a letter from the White House, chances are it’s not signed by the president. Chances are the secretary has gotten the pen out and signed it.”

The collection began as a hobby of Judge Curtis Shake, a Knox County resident who was an Indiana Supreme Court Justice and who served as a judge during the Nuremberg Trials in Germany following World War II.

Shake’s collection began when he received a personal letter in 1930 from President Herbert Hoover, commending him for his role in a Vincennes celebration of the 100th anniversary of the migration of Abraham Lincoln’s family from Indiana and Illinois.

Shake later received personal correspondence from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

From the beginning Shake traded for and purchased the rest of the original signatures for 40 years, getting every signature up to and including Richard Nixon’s. One of the documents had both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s autographs.

In 1973, Shake donated his collection, which included personal letters, land purchase documents and letters of appointment, to the society.

“(The Historical and Antiquarian Society) was revived in 1965 and Curt Shake was one of the founding fathers and he was interested in it,” Latta said. “And that’s why he donated the collection to the Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society.”

Since then, the society has continued the effort.

“I think it became a challenge for every Historical Society administration to get the new president, and some more difficult than others,” Latta said.

The key to obtaining the signatures is having a personal connection that can get in touch with the president, Latta said.

It was Jim Corridon, former county Republican Party chairman and now the State Archivist, who helped get the George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush autographs. It was former speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives John R. Gregg of Sandborn, who was responsible for getting Bill Clinton’s signature when he visited Vincennes University during a campaign rally for his wife, Hillary Clinton, in April 2008.

And it was Dale Phillips, superintendent of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park and also a member of the Historical and Antiquarian Society, who wrote a letter to U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh asking about Obama’s signature.

A member of Bayh’s Evansville office brought the autograph, which was on a White House stationary, to Phillips during the re-dedication ceremony last October of the Clark Memorial following it’s renovation.

The collection was originally held at the Lewis Library at VU, but was later moved to a bank vault after society members became concerned about its rising value of the signatures.

A copy of the display can be seen at Tecumseh-Harrison Elementary School.

___

Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, http://www.vincennes.com

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-06-26-10 0103EDT

 

Harrison Ford drove a similar 1955 Chevy in ‘American Graffiti.’ Image courtesy of RM Auctions and LiveAuctioneers archives.

First ‘wheels’ inspire nostalgia among Wisconsin car owners

Harrison Ford drove a similar 1955 Chevy in ‘American Graffiti.’ Image courtesy of RM Auctions and LiveAuctioneers archives.

Harrison Ford drove a similar 1955 Chevy in ‘American Graffiti.’ Image courtesy of RM Auctions and LiveAuctioneers archives.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) – Carl Parker traded a cow for his, igniting a lifelong passion.

It was love at first sight when Greg Hageness spotted his while deer hunting near Eleva.

Everett Blakeley let his get away but was lucky enough to be reunited years later. Now he wouldn’t consider parting with it.

The object of these Chippewa Valley residents’ affection: their first cars.

Apparently, there’s something about a first automobile that, like a first love, is hard to put in the rearview mirror forever.

“It’s a matter of tying yourself to your youth,” said Blakeley, an Eau Claire developer and car collector. “First cars are historical and help us remember a part of our lives that was so happy and carefree. There are a lot of people who still want a piece of that.”

The strong connection many people forge with their first set of wheels became abundantly clear when more than 50 Chippewa Valley residents responded to a recent Leader-Telegram call for stories about first-car experiences. The tales, focusing on everything from rusty clunkers to dreamy sports cars, were published in a special section called “Memory Lane.”

The fascination with cars goes far beyond just polishing fenders, kicking tires and revving engines. It extends to the natural desire of people – especially teenagers and young adults who’ve never had the ability before – to hit the open road and go wherever they want.

“Cars provide the basic fundamental called freedom,” said longtime local car dealer Ken Vance. “Transportation is freedom and independence.”

Vance, owner of Ken Vance Motors, has witnessed that special connection time and time again since first coming to Eau Claire 37 years ago and working for car dealer Lee Markquart.

While some buyers are merely looking for a way to get from point A to point B, others develop a real infatuation with what they drive, Vance said.

“There is a lot of nostalgia involved with cars, and there aren’t many products like that,” said Vance, who keeps an enlarged photo of his own first car, a 1952 Chevrolet hardtop, in his office.

“It was a chick magnet from way back,” Vance quipped, adding that he bought the car for $325 and sold it a year later for $475, perhaps planting the first seed for what would become his life’s work.

While some people keep a special spot in their heart for their first car, others prefer a more tangible reminder and keep it in their garage.

Hageness, for one, never has been able to part with his first car since he managed, at age 16, to acquire a version of an automobile he had dreamed of owning since first admiring it in the movie American Graffiti. The vehicle was a 1955 Chevrolet two-door post car just like the one driven by actor Harrison Ford in the 1973 classic.

“After watching that movie, I said, ‘someday I’m going to get me a ’55 Chevy,’” said Hageness, 49, of rural Fall Creek. “So when I saw one out behind a barn south of Eleva while deer hunting, I had to have it.”

The year was 1976. The price: $200.

After towing the car, which had been sitting outside for some time, back to his father’s shop, Hageness wanted to see if it would run. He made sure it had oil and created a gas line by extending a hose to a can of gasoline.

“I turned the key, and by golly the thing started,” he said.

He since has replaced the motor twice and given it two new paint jobs, changing it from the original green to a maroon and white two-tone to red. It clearly is a labor of love for Hageness, who still drives the car fairly often every summer, including in a few car shows, and allowed his daughter Anna to take it to prom two years ago.

Though he has had opportunities to sell the Chevy, Hageness has resisted, in part because of all the people who have told him over the years how much they wish they still had their first car.

“It’s Americana. It’s a connection to the past,” Hageness said. “Generally, when you think about the past, you think of the good times, and it brings a smile to your face.”

Blakeley, 65, bought his first car, a 1948 Nash, in 1963. He sold it a year later because, he recalled, “It wasn’t enough of a hot rod for me.”

After years of regrets about the one that got away, Blakeley couldn’t believe his good fortune when he was driving around town and spotted his first car, looking pretty neglected, with a “For Sale” sign on it 20 years after he’d sold it.

Blakeley bought the car back and restored it to its original two-tone color – tannish gray on the bottom and green on the top.

“It’s a very nice car” and one of a half-dozen he has collected, said Blakeley, who still enjoys going for an occasional spin in the Nash. “I wouldn’t sell it again. It has a good, safe home now.”

A photo album in Parker’s town of Seymour home is a testament to the love affair many Americans have with their cars.

The treasured album is devoted to photos of automobiles Parker, 75, has owned over the past 62 years. It catalogs 51 vehicles, including campers, lawn tractors and boats that have been a part of his fleet.

It begins with a 1940 Studebaker and progresses through the 2008 Audi A4 and 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in his garage today.

Each page has a story that goes along with it, but none can top the tale of how Parker acquired his first car, in 1948.

Parker’s brother, who worked at Madison Street Auto Body at the time, took ownership of the badly damaged Studebaker four-door sedan after it was rear-ended and the owners decided not to even bother with repairs.

Parker was intrigued by the car but, as a 14-year-old, didn’t have a lot of assets to his name. So he milked his only cash cow – literally.

In exchange for the car, Parker offered to give his brother, a farmer, the cow he had been raising for 4-H and FFA.

The deal was struck – cow power for horsepower – and Parker became a car owner.

“The back end was caved in, and we just left that. It definitely was not a fancy buggy,” Parker said. “It burned oil like mad, and it was a big, old tank, but I didn’t care. To me, it was fantastic. I had a car, and it gave me freedom.”

The unusual transaction marked the starting line for more than just a photo album.

“I’ve been a car buff all my life,” said Parker, who has owned cheap and fancy cars and even dabbled in restoration. “It’s a way of life. It’s just an interesting thing to keep you occupied and busy.”

Though he may have used cash for his first car purchase, Glenn Haukeness of Strum didn’t need too much.

Haukeness paid a mere $5 for a 1919 Ford Model T in 1939. Remarkably, a driver’s license at the time would have set him back more than the car.

However, the 14-year-old avoided that cost because he wasn’t old enough to drive legally but got permission from the guy who enforced the law in Osseo, where Haukeness worked at a gas station.

“The local police officer said if I behaved myself and did not drive after dark it was OK,” said Haukeness, 85.

Jim Paulson, 52, a member of the Indianhead Old Car Club and an organizer of the upcoming 36th annual Indianhead Car Show on Aug. 1 in Chippewa Falls, certainly had one of the most unusual introductions to the world of auto ownership in 1975.

His first car, acquired at age 16, was a Cadillac. But before anyone jumps to conclusions about him living the high life at such a young age, it should be noted that the car was 26 years old and designed for purposes less uplifting than cruising the parking lot at North High School.

The vehicle was a 1949 Cadillac hearse that he recalled refusing to buy unless it came with a casket, which made a marvelous prop at Halloween parties.

As for the car, Paulson said, “I used to drive it to school quite a bit. I think kids just thought, ‘There goes another goofball with a really big car.’”

He still owns his next vehicle, a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible, which he considers his first “legitimate” car. The Eau Claire resident said some people have questioned why he has kept that old car along with a few others and spent more money restoring some of them than they’re worth.

“That’s not the point,” Paulson said. “They mean something to me.”

Just after finishing his military service in World War II, Gene Rineck of Wheaton ordered a brand new car for $1,344.

Since new cars were scarce in the postwar era, he had to wait a year before his 1947 Plymouth four-door arrived. But it was worth the wait, coming with such bells and whistles as a heater, radio and outside sun visor. In addition, he recalled fondly, it could go 80 mph and offered a smoother ride than he was used to.

“It was a lot easier than riding on the back of a tank,” said Rineck, now 85, noting that as an infantryman serving in Italy he was assigned to follow a line of advancing tanks and occasionally would hop on the back of a tank and ride for a while.

As a student at Eau Claire High School in the 1950s, Fritz Bushendorf knew just what to do after someone crashed into his first car, a blue 1937 Ford 85 he had purchased for $50, and discolored the bumper.

He and a friend planned to show their spirit by painting the vehicle in school colors – white with purple polka dots.

But when their preferred colors were unavailable, they settled on using brushes to apply John Deere yellow and International Harvester red in a unique design created by Bushendorf.

One day he asked a friend if she could make a stencil so he could add his girlfriend’s name to the side of the car. The friend made the stencil but told Bushendorf he’d never follow through.

“Back then you didn’t dare people from my side of town,” said Bushendorf, now 71, noting that for the next year or so he drove the brightly colored car around town with the name “Marilyn” painted on the side.

Fritz and Marilyn Bushendorf, now of New Auburn, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in January.

As for the car, Bushendorf said, “My mother finally made me sell it so she didn’t have to have that red and yellow thing sitting in her yard.”

Like many other senior citizens, George Stanek, 85, of Augusta recalled that motorists in the 1940s often went to great lengths to drive a car.

His first car, a 1936 Chevy he bought in 1943 at age 18, wasn’t in terrible shape except for its bald tires, which were difficult to find replacements for because the nation’s resources were devoted to supporting World War II.

To get around, Stanek said he pealed the rubber off his original tires and replaced it with rubber he cut off another old set of damaged tires. He endured the “not quite balanced” ride for seven months until he finally was able to buy a set of reground tires, which he enjoyed for only two months before selling the car when he joined the military.

Still, Stanek said all the extra effort seemed worth it at the time.

“I was the only one in the neighborhood of that age who had a car,” he said, grinning at the memory of squeezing nine people in the car and hauling them to the local dance hall.

As a nurse working in Lansing, Mich., for $11 a day, Jeanette Baumgartner scraped up enough cash to pay $2,163 for her first car, a 1951 Pontiac Silver Streak convertible, in 1953.

The convertible was a hit with Baumgartner’s friends, as evidenced by an old black-and-white photo of Baumgartner and a friend lying on the hood holding their hands by their heads as if they had antlers. She labeled the photo “nurses dear hunting.”

The fire engine red car also seems like a perfect fit for a woman who six years ago, at age 74, sent Christmas cards adorned with a photo of her at the wheel of her first car. Baumgartner, now of Eau Claire, attached a caption that captures some of the mystique that many Americans associate with the automobile:

“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, ‘Holy (expletive)! What a ride!’”

___

Information from: Leader-Telegram,

http://www.leadertelegram.com/

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-06-27-10 0100EDT

Amelia Earhart mounts her Lockheed Vega 5b circa 1935. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Astronaut returns Earhart’s scarf to Okla. museum

Amelia Earhart mounts her Lockheed Vega 5b circa 1935. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Amelia Earhart mounts her Lockheed Vega 5b circa 1935. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – An astronaut who carried a scarf once owned by famed aviator Amelia Earhart aboard the space shuttle is returning it to an Oklahoma women’s flight museum.

Astronaut Randy Bresnik will formally present the scarf to officials from the 99s Museum of Women Pilots at the museum’s grand reopening event on Saturday. The museum has been closed for remodeling.

The Kansas-born Earhart disappeared in 1937 at age 39 while attempting an around-the-world flight. Bresnik’s grandfather, Albert Bresnik, was hired by Earhart to work as her only authorized photographer, but he wasn’t with her on her final flight.

Earhart wore the scarf on her long-distance trips, but not on the flight on which she disappeared. Bresnik asked to carry the scarf aboard space shuttle Atlantis last November to honor Earhart.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-CS-06-26-10 0601EDT

Priceless - How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures, by Robert K. Wittman with John Shiffman, Crown Publishing, retail: $25.

In Review: Former FBI agent’s art-crime memoir is ‘Priceless’

Priceless - How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures, by Robert K. Wittman with John Shiffman, Crown Publishing, retail: $25.

Priceless – How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, by Robert K. Wittman with John Shiffman, Crown Publishing, retail: $25.

PHILADELPHIA (ACNI) – “Freeze! FBI!”

Growing up in Baltimore during the 1960s and ’70s, young Bob Wittman would wait all week to hear those heart-stopping words, his eyes locked on the no-nonsense escapades of Lt. Lewis Erskine on the TV show FBI. In that semi-fictionalized onscreen portrayal of the FBI in action, G-Men became heroes in the eyes of a generation of postwar kids, including Wittman, who would grow up to become the most famous of all international art sleuths and founder of the FBI Art Crime Team.

Wittman’s stellar 20-year career as the agent who made life a misery for criminals who brokered stolen artworks “in the space between the black and the white” is chronicled in a riveting new memoir titled Priceless – How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.

As we learn from the pages of Priceless, which was authored by Wittman together with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Shiffman, FBI men are not born; they’re made. In Wittman’s case, the inspiration to serve his country came from two particular role models – one the product of a screenwriter’s imagination, the other a flesh-and-blood FBI agent from Baltimore.

Robert K. Wittman, Founder of the FBI Art Crime Team. Image copyright Donna Wittman.

Robert K. Wittman, Founder of the FBI Art Crime Team. Image copyright Donna Wittman.

The neighborhood in which the Wittman family lived had its own version of Lt. Lewis Erskine, the impeccably attired TV character played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., whose actions in the line of duty were always beyond reproach.

“One of our neighbors, Walter Gordon, was a special agent in the FBI’s Baltimore division. When I was ten years old, he was the coolest man I knew,” Wittman recalled. “Mr. Gordon wore a fine suit, shined shoes and a crisp white shirt every day. He drove the nicest car on the block, a bureau-issue late-model green two-door Buick Skylark. People looked up to him.”

While that real-life image made a potent impression, Wittman says the endorsement from his mother, Japanese-born Yachiyo Akaishi Wittman, was an important factor in molding his ambitions for the future. Mrs. Wittman, who had a keen eye for decorum, approved of the way in which FBI agents deported themselves, both on television and in real life. They earned respect, she said.

“My mother, who had experienced racism [as an Asian woman married to an American man in the post Korean War era], thought it was important to protect people from abuse, and that being an FBI agent was one of the highest-honor jobs. She was always one of my biggest fans,” Wittman said in a phone interview with Auction Central News.

After graduating from college and working briefly for his dad’s agricultural newspaper, Wittman saw an ad that said the FBI was accepting applications for new agents. Having long harbored the dream of working for the agency, Wittman applied and was accepted for a position in Philadelphia.

His initiation as a G-Man was the quintessential baptism by fire, with two major art robbery cases occurring during his first week on the job. One of the cases involved the brazen daylight theft on Nov. 23, 1988 of the sculpture The Man with the Broken Nose, from Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum. There’s a temptation to laugh as Wittman relates how he nearly froze from hours of surveillance in sub-freezing temperatures in an undercover van, not having bothered to wear a coat; and how, on that same mission, he was unable to contact his fellow agents for backup at a critical point because the van’s radio had a dead battery. Wittman’s own handheld radio was in fine working order – sitting on his desk back at headquarters.

From those early lessons, Wittman became a quick study. It didn’t take long for him to learn the ropes, sharpen his skills and start digging into major art-theft cases. Along the way, he also became educated about art and artists by taking courses at Philadelphia’s renowned Barnes Foundation. If he was going to consort with criminals and take on the persona of a dealer looking for fine art with a five-finger discount, he had to know what he was talking about.

Yet, what immediately set him apart from other FBI agents working on art cases was his understanding of how art deals are done. His father, Robert A. Wittman, had opened Wittman’s Oriental Gallery, an antique shop on Howard Street in Baltimore, after leaving the publishing world in 1986. The younger Wittman’s exposure to how antiques and art dealers ply their trade would later prove invaluable. “You can take courses,” Wittman said, “but you have to know how the business works if you’re going to make the kinds of deals that catch the criminals.”

In Priceless, Wittman writes about the skills he acquired intuitively while under the guise of his alter ego, shady American-based art dealer “Bob Clay.” The tricks of his trade include: keep the lies to a minimum, never work on your own home turf, learn the lingo of the business in which you’re operating, and always use your correct first name – it’s easier not to slip up if you do that. There’s an incident in the book in which Wittman – or shall we say, Bob Clay – has made arrangements to meet with a man named Charlie Wilhite, who wants to sell him a stolen African-American Civil War regiment battle flag. Wittman goes to Philadelphia Airport to pick up Wilhite, who has just flown in from Kansas City. While walking toward the airport exit with Wilhite, Wittman is spotted by one of his neighbors, who happens to be at the airport at precisely the same time. The neighbor waves at Wittman and calls out, “Hi, Bob!” Wittman acknowledges his neighbor with a nod and a quick hello, then calmly continues his conversation with the criminal. Had he been using a phony first name, his cover would have been blown.

On another occasion, Wittman was playing the role of an underworld diamond courier, complete with a briefcase containing $15 million in loose diamonds handcuffed to his arm. The would-be buyer of the gems – which supposedly were going to be used to finance covert operations in Europe – asked to meet with Wittman at a specific Philadelphia hotel. Wittman showed up at the appointed time, and so did the “buyer” – but Wittman immediately became suspicious when the man turned up wearing a heavy overcoat in a warm hotel lobby. Something didn’t feel right, so rather than stepping into the elevator with the man, Wittman gave an early takedown signal, and his fellow agents swooped in. When the agents frisked the man, they discovered he was packing not only a gun but also a hatchet. He had planned to kill Wittman, then cut off his arm to access the briefcase.

Priceless presents the truth – warts and all – about Wittman’s career. He reveals the details of a tragic car accident that claimed his agent-partner’s life, and the subsequent trial that might have cost him his career and put him behind bars, had he been found guilty of drunk driving. The circumstances surrounding the car accident that killed Agent Denis Bozella changed Wittman’s life and taught him lessons that would underscore the motivation for his being an FBI agent in the first place: “to do the right thing.”

Because it is a memoir, Priceless has the luxury of leaving out the chaff and cutting to the heart of the matter by condensing Wittman’s adventures to just the nail-biting thrillers that have caught the attention of Hollywood production companies. During ACN’s interview with Wittman, he confirmed that Priceless had attracted the interest of both former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, and Leonardo di Caprio. Our own pick for the lead role, George Clooney, also appears to be on Wittman’s short list of actors he’d like to see portraying him on the big screen. There’s a similarity in their personalities and even a physical resemblance between Clooney and Wittman. [n.b. – Two days after the interview with Wittman, Variety reported that Graham King, whose past projects include The Departed and The Aviator, had sealed a deal for the motion picture rights. Wittman will serve as a consultant on the film.]

Priceless is a roller coaster ride through international cases in which Wittman was the FBI’s calculatingly brilliant but nevertheless risk-taking main man. The now-solved crimes detailed in this book are legendary in the annals of fine art recovery and the FBI.

You want adventure? You want action? Wittman had his fair share of both, jet-setting around the world and moving with the ease of a cat burglar from one group of scoundrels to the next. Among the cases included in Priceless are:

 

  • Going undercover in Madrid to extract from a Spanish mobster Goya and Brughel paintings valued at $50 million

 

  • Recovering the golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king

 

  • Traversing three countries, setting up wiretaps and rubbing elbows with Hollywood mobsters and a trio of punks from Iran to rescue two Renoirs and a Rembrandt worth $40 million

 

  • Catching an appraiser con man who used PBS’s Antiques Roadshow to steal countless heirlooms from war heroes’ descendants

 

  • Saving an original copy of the Bill of Rights that had been believed lost for a hundred years

 

Perfect score? Almost. There was one that got away, and it was the biggest fish of them all: the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum case. In the early-morning hours of March 18, 1990, as the St. Patrick’s Day revelry was winding down in Boston, two men disguised as Boston police officers conned their way into the celebrated art museum, duct-taped and cuffed the two on-duty security guards to plumbing pipes, and spent the next 45 minutes grabbing one masterpiece after another from the gallery’s walls. Among them were two Rembrandt paintings – The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Portrait of a Lady and Gentleman in Black; a Rembrandt self-portrait etching, and Vermeer’s The Concert, the most valuable of all known stolen paintings. Using box cutters, the thieves callously sliced the artworks from their frames, but clearly the perpetrators were not art experts, as they left behind a priceless Botticelli, a pair of Raphaels, a Matisse, a Whistler and a Michelangelo.

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, circa 1633, oil on canvas. Stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, circa 1633, oil on canvas. Stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

In the years to follow, hundreds of FBI agents and police officers would investigate the Gardner case, which is still considered the largest art theft in world history. Thirteen artworks were taken, with a total value estimated at $500 million.

A reward that grew to $5 million enticed a motley cast of characters to try their hand at recovering the stolen art, as well. Aspiring gumshoes, investigative journalists, even members of the mob gave it a shot, but to not avail.

It was not until 2006 that a credible tip came to the FBI and landed on the desk of the man best suited to following up on it – the founder of the agency’s Art Crime Team: Robert Wittman. It was the lead Wittman needed to revive the investigation, and it might have led to the crowning achievement of his career, but as his memoir reveals, he would get to the brink of his goal… and no further.

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675), The Concert, circa 1664, oil on canvas. Stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675), The Concert, circa 1664, oil on canvas. Stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

It is a bitter irony that law enforcement agencies, themselves, were responsible for bungling the set-up that quite likely would have resulted in the recovery of artworks stolen from the Gardner Museum. It seems that every law-enforcement agency concerned with the case, including those that were only peripherally involved because a perp had passed through their jurisdiction, wanted the credit if and when the case was cracked. Even competing branch offices of the FBI jumped into the fray, staking a pre-emptive claim. Each agency wanted the arrest either to take place on their soil or with their cops in charge, for the whole world to see. Because of the posturing and squabbles between agencies, the sting operation Wittman had worked so diligently and skillfully to orchestrate never transpired. It’s agonizing to read Wittman’s account of a botched operation caused by too many cooks in the kitchen.

“In my opinion, we were two weeks away from recovering the Rembrandt and the Vermeer. I believe [the go-betweens we were dealing with] did have access to them,” Wittman said.

Will the Gardner Museum case ever be solved and the artworks returned to Boston, now that the architects of the crime realize the FBI was about to nail them? Wittman says ‘yes.’

“In my heart of hearts I think the paintings can be recovered. The best news coming out of this is that the artworks were not destroyed. I think the Rembrandts and Vermeer are still in existence. It would be a ‘win’ of epic proportions to get them back someday.”

Hopefully that will happen, but unfortunately it won’t be with Wittman’s boots on the ground or his face in the spotlight. He has retired from the FBI and established Robert Wittman Inc., an international art security firm that works with institutions, insurance companies and individuals to track down stolen artworks and advise them on how to secure their collections.

Wittman is also currently a hot property on the lecture circuit. To find out where he will be speaking next, or to learn more about Wittman’s security firm, visit Wittman’s Web site at www.robertwittmaninc.com.

But before you do anything else, get this book. It’s the real deal.

Click here to purchase the New York Times bestseller Priceless – How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2010 Auction Central News International. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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‘Crocks, Jugs and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware,’ an exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum through July 10, includes examples on loan from public institutions and private collectors. Attributed to Philadelphia maker Richard C. Remmey, this cobalt decorated coin bank, circa 1880-1890, is topped with a fanciful bird finial molded by hand. Image collection of Winterthur Museum.

Decorated stoneware: easy on the eye, perfect for purpose

‘Crocks, Jugs and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware,’ an exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum through July 10, includes examples on loan from public institutions and private collectors. Attributed to Philadelphia maker Richard C. Remmey, this cobalt decorated coin bank, circa 1880-1890, is topped with a fanciful bird finial molded by hand. Image collection of Winterthur Museum.

‘Crocks, Jugs and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware,’ an exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum through July 10, includes examples on loan from public institutions and private collectors. Attributed to Philadelphia maker Richard C. Remmey, this cobalt decorated coin bank, circa 1880-1890, is topped with a fanciful bird finial molded by hand. Image collection of Winterthur Museum.

American stoneware pottery was created to serve a purpose, but the charming decoration – often in cobalt blue – was added to please the eye. Auctions and shows offer pieces at a wide range of price points for beginning and advanced collectors.

“Stoneware has maintained a strong collector interest, especially for the better pieces,” said Ron Pook of Pook & Pook Auctions in Downingtown, Pa. “It’s still very sought-after.”

The production of utilitarian stoneware was an early success story for American potteries. The newly united Colonies along the East Coast emerged from the Revolution still dependent on imports from across the Atlantic to fill basic needs.

Fine porcelain table services for the upper classes were shipped from Europe or China. Germany and England were supplying basic types of pottery for domestic and commercial use. George Washington had Chinese Export porcelain for best, and a good grade of white English stoneware for his “everyday dishes.”

International business practices that still annoy economists today were also common in the past. Ceramics expert William C. Ketchum Jr. wrote in his American Antiques volume on Pottery & Porcelain: “Periodically, British manufacturers ‘dumped’ large quantities of high quality ceramics on the American market, offering them at prices local craftsmen could not profitably match.”

Immigrant craftsmen had brought the necessary potting skills with them to this country. But before citizens could “buy American,” entrepreneurs needed to establish financially viable potteries near a good source of the proper clay. Small redware workshops, making simple dishes for local families, sprang up first. Collectors still prize these fragile but desirable pieces.

Clay to make more durable stoneware was harder to find. Deposits were eventually located in the Mid-Atlantic states and in Ohio. This production also required a larger operation with a more sophisticated kiln setup. Pioneering potteries were established in the 18th century, and stoneware manufacturing was flourishing in the country by the 19th century.

Better transportation made it easy to move raw materials to the factory and finished products to the consumer. The majority of forms for sale were various storage vessels, such as crocks, jugs, pitchers and bottles. Until the 1880s, most basic pieces were thrown on the wheel. Hard-to-find rarities, such as coin banks and figural pieces, were shaped by hand.

To create an impervious surface, most stoneware is salt-glazed. Ketchum described the process: “Quantities of salt were thrown into the kiln when the heat was most intense; the salt vaporized and combined with the outer layer of the pottery to form a clear, vitreous finish that is characteristically pebbled, resembling an orange peel.”

Modern collectors, however, do not crave stoneware simply because it comes in useful shapes and keeps the water out. Pursuing a creative whim, decorators often hand-painted whimsical patterns – flowers, animals, people – that add great value to individual pieces. Buyers also look for incised information about the name and location of the pottery and for dates, which were sometimes added by hand.

Ron Pook noted, “The market today is for the more unusual pieces. I go for the uniqueness of a piece. I look for brighter color, a deeper cobalt blue, and highly developed decoration or an unusual form. The appeal of stoneware lies in its folkiness. We had a water cooler in the April sale that was rather vibrant.”

This spring auction lot, a 19th-century salt-glazed stoneware water cooler, sold for $17,550. The piece bore a clearly stamped maker’s mark that read “Wells & Richards Reading Berks Co PA” which had strong regional interest to Pennsylvania collectors. Furthermore, the curved sides of the storage piece were covered with a cobalt tulip pattern painted freehand by the decorator.

Figural decoration commands the highest prices. During the auction of the Shelley Collection three years ago, Pook & Pook sold a 6-gallon water jug painted with a long-necked goony bird for $48,800 and a smaller jug with a rare lady with parasol figure for $53,820.

Museum exhibitions are excellent way to examine important examples of this pottery. Through July 10, the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa., is offering Crocks, Jugs, and Jars: Decorated American Stoneware, a loan exhibition from public and private lenders. Many of the exhibits come from the excellent permanent collection at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens, just to the south in Delaware.

Two excellent references on the subject, both still available through used book services are Decorated Stoneware Pottery of North America by Donald Blake Webster (1971) and American Stoneware by William C. Ketchum Jr. (1991).

Although collectors are most familiar with the salt-glazed stoneware featuring cobalt designs that was produced in New England, Pennsylvania and Ohio, other types of stoneware with alternative glazes and decoration was produced in the South during the 19th century. More on this subject will appear in the next Ceramics Collector devoted to Southern pottery.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


A clearly stamped mark by a Berks County maker added value to this decorated water cooler, which sold for $17,550 in an auction in April. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

A clearly stamped mark by a Berks County maker added value to this decorated water cooler, which sold for $17,550 in an auction in April. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


Rare and whimsical, a Philadelphia stoneware face pitcher accented with cobalt sold for $81,900 in October 2008. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Rare and whimsical, a Philadelphia stoneware face pitcher accented with cobalt sold for $81,900 in October 2008. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


A hip flask with the owners initials, dated 1853 and decorated with flowers, brought $17,720 in a September 2007 sale rich in stoneware. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

A hip flask with the owners initials, dated 1853 and decorated with flowers, brought $17,720 in a September 2007 sale rich in stoneware. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


Stoneware figural examples are a rare breed. This stag, probably western Pennsylvania, circa 1875, soared to $111,150. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Stoneware figural examples are a rare breed. This stag, probably western Pennsylvania, circa 1875, soared to $111,150. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


The appealing character of this cobalt-painted pig flask, attributed to an Illinois pottery, took the final price to $37,440 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

The appealing character of this cobalt-painted pig flask, attributed to an Illinois pottery, took the final price to $37,440 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


Stoneware collectors crave unusual designs. This 6-gallon water jug, marked ‘M.Woodruff Cortland,’ has a lively goony bird. It sold for $48,800. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Stoneware collectors crave unusual designs. This 6-gallon water jug, marked ‘M.Woodruff Cortland,’ has a lively goony bird. It sold for $48,800. Courtesy Pook & Pook.


This small jug is decorated with a highly desirable human figure. The fine lady with a parasol took bidding to $53,820 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

This small jug is decorated with a highly desirable human figure. The fine lady with a parasol took bidding to $53,820 in 2007. Courtesy Pook & Pook.

Children on a seesaw and other villagers are pictured on this picture clock. It is 33 by 44 inches, and has a working watch in the church steeple. This type of picture was known in the late 18th century, but was most popular in about 1850.

Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of June 28, 2010

Children on a seesaw and other villagers are pictured on this picture clock. It is 33 by 44 inches, and has a working watch in the church steeple. This type of picture was known in the late 18th century, but was most popular in about 1850.

Children on a seesaw and other villagers are pictured on this picture clock. It is 33 by 44 inches, and has a working watch in the church steeple. This type of picture was known in the late 18th century, but was most popular in about 1850.

One of the more unusual clock styles made in the 19th century is the picture clock. It is a clever novelty, and a few modern versions are being made by Swiss clock companies. An artist paints a village scene or seacoast town that includes a tower or church. The oil painting can show people working or resting and enjoying the view. A pocket watch movement is put in as the church steeple’s or tower’s clock. Each “clock” had to be wound every day, so the picture frame was hinged to allow it to swing forward and expose the back of the clock. Sometimes the picture also included figures with arms or legs that moved. This type of antique clock was most often made in France in the late 18th or early 19th century. Guests may be startled if they notice the painting on the wall has a clock that always seems to show the correct time. An 1850 French picture clock sold recently at Fairfield Auctions in Connecticut for $1,700.

Q: Before my mother died in 1980, I had asked her to leave me just one thing — an antique revolving bookcase one of her cousins had given her. It’s a tall Arts & Crafts oak bookcase that rotates on a round base. The label on it says, “Manufactured by Sargent Mfg. Co., Muskegon, Mich., and New York, N.Y., pat’d Jan 23-83.” Please tell me when you think it was made.

A: Sargent Manufacturing Co. was founded in Muskegon in 1889 and was in business until about 1905. The company had a New York branch in the early 1900s. Sargent made desks, stands, wardrobes and bookcases in Victorian golden oak styles and later in the Arts & Crafts style. Your bookcase most likely dates from the early 1900s. The earlier patent date probably relates to its revolving mechanism.

Q: I’m wondering if my paper Chicago World’s Fair umbrella is special. I have it displayed in my home and enjoy it, but I’m told it should be put away and saved. Any thoughts?

A: Enjoy your special collectible. It is not so valuable that it should be put away. The Chicago World’s Fair originally ran from May to November 1933. It reopened in May 1934 and ran until October that year. The theme of the fair, “Century of Progress,” marked the centennial of the founding of Chicago. The motto of the fair was “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.” Umbrellas like yours show up at sales and auctions occasionally and sell for around $30 to $45.

Q: I just went to a garage sale and found three cast-iron toys that are replicas of very old Case farm equipment. I bought a steam tractor, a threshing machine and a water wagon. They have almost perfect original paint. How much are they worth?

A: There were a number of companies making models like this in the 1970s, although they represent machinery used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The almost perfect condition suggests a 1970s rather than an 1890s origin. Value of each: under $50.

Q: I own an original official Winter Olympics poster from the 1972 games in Sapporo, Japan. It’s still in the heavy cardboard tube sent to me from Japan, so it’s in pristine condition. What is it worth?

A: There are collectors who specialize in Olympic memorabilia. Official posters for the Olympics have been commissioned since the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden. The official 1972 poster for the XI Winter Games has a background in shades of blue with Japan’s red sun symbol at the top, the Olympic rings in the center and a stylized mountain at the bottom. It was designed by Takashi Kono and printed by Tappan Printing Co. The poster was made using offset printing. A genuine original sells today for about $75. Lithographed originals from early 20th-century Games sell for much more.

Q: Years ago, the high school where I taught was discarding stuff stored in the school’s attic. I took home a small oak cabinet with 12 small drawers. Inside the drawers I found 50 glass photographic slides, each with a label. They include pictures of Niagara Falls, settlers traveling West and coal miners in Scranton, Pa. A plate on the cabinet says, “Keystone View Co., Meadville, Pa.” Please tell me something about the cabinet.

A: The Keystone View Co. of Meadville was founded by B.L. Singley in 1892. The company was sold in 1963 and closed about a decade later. Keystone was a major distributor of stereographic (3-D) images for families and schools — from high schools to medical schools. The company also manufactured magic lanterns (the forerunners of slide projectors), stereoscopes, projectors and cabinets. A cabinet like yours sold a few years ago for $300.

Q: I have an upright piano dated 1878 in the keyboard lid. It’s also marked, “Made in Germany, completed in Liverpool, England, William H. & G.H. Dreaper, patent 5128.” Can you tell me more? And is it collectible?

A: William and G.H. Dreaper’s piano business was located at 96 Bold St. in Liverpool from 1828 to 1902. Dreaper made some beautiful pianos, but the value of a piano depends more on its sound than its beauty.

Tip: All Pyrex, old or new, is safe to use in the microwave.

Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or e-mail addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Auction Central News, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

Need more information about collectibles? Find it at Kovels.com, our website for collectors. Check prices there, too. More than 700,000 are listed, and viewing them is free. You can also sign up to read our weekly Kovels Komments. It includes the latest news, tips and questions and is delivered by e-mail, free, if you register. Kovels.com offers extra collector’s information and lists of publications, clubs, appraisers, auction houses, people who sell parts or repair antiques and much more. You can subscribe to Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles, our monthly newsletter filled with prices, facts and color photos. Kovels.com adds to the information in our newspaper column and helps you find useful sources needed by collectors.

CURRENT PRICES

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • 1939 New York World’s Fair potholder, cotton terrycloth, yellow ground, green Trylon and red Perisphere, green binding, 6 1/2 inches, $15.
  • Advertising pocket mirror, Hobo Kidney & Bladder Remedy, celluloid, image of boxed bottle, orange ground, Parisian Novelty Co., Chicago, 2 inches, $60.
  • Plush Pluto toy, velveteen, leather collar, printed design on paws and face, mouth opens to expose tongue and teeth, Dean’s Rag Book Co., 1930s, 12 x 5 inches, $285.
  • Seth Thomas No. 1 banjo clock, spring driven, reverse painting of Lake Erie and Commodore Perry’s victory scenes, throat tablet with shield and eagle, brass eagle finial, 37 inches, $450.
  • Elvis Presley Tender Pink lipstick, “Keep Me Always on Your Lips,” metal tube, on card, Elvis Presley Enterprises, 1956, 3 3/8 x 4 3/4 inches, $505.
  • Captain Marvel child’s sweatshirt, image of Captain Marvel throwing a fighter plane, “Spring Needle Knit Quality Fabric,” 1945, size 8, $690.
  • Steven & Williams glass vase, mother-of-pearl, Pompeian Swirl pattern, reverse amberina, 6 3/4 inches, $745.
  • Mt. Joye cameo glass vase, textured green, metal overlay, oak tree and acorn design, signed, circa 1900, 5 x 15 inches, $800.
  • Classical coin silver sugar and creamer, paneled, vase form, die-rolled banding, bird handles, Abraham G. Storm, New York, circa 1810, 8 1/4 inches, $1,195.
  • Quilt, stitched and pieced, cream ground, rows of squares, blue diamond border, flowers, leaves and feathered wreath design, New England, 19th century, 75 x 87 inches, $9,440.

Kovels’ American Collectibles, 1900 to 2000 is here. It’s the newest and best guide to your 20th-century treasures-everything from art pottery to kitchenware. It’s filled with hundreds of color photographs, marks, lists of designers and manufacturers and lots of information about collectibles. The collectibles of the 20th century are explained in an entertaining, informative style. Read tips on care and dating items and discover how to spot a good buy or avoid a bad one. And learn about hot new collectibles and what they’re worth so you can make wise, profitable decisions. The book covers pottery and porcelain, furniture, jewelry, silver, glass, toys, kitchen items, bottles, dolls, prints and more. It’s about the household furnishings of the past century —what they are, what they’re worth and how they were used. Available at your bookstore; online at Kovels.com; by phone at 800-571-1555; or send $27.95 plus $4.95 postage to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

© 2010 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

‘Doppelkopf’ (Double Head) by Thomas Schütte appears tormented. The 67 1/2-inch-tall sculpture has a $600,000-$900,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

Hefty prices expected at Phillips de Pury’s June 29 Contemp. Art sale

‘Doppelkopf’ (Double Head) by Thomas Schütte appears tormented. The 67 1/2-inch-tall sculpture has a $600,000-$900,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

‘Doppelkopf’ (Double Head) by Thomas Schütte appears tormented. The 67 1/2-inch-tall sculpture has a $600,000-$900,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

LONDON – Phillips de Pury & Co. will conduct its Contemporary Art: Evening Sale on Tuesday, June 29, as a prelude to a double session the following day. Forty-five works by leading contemporary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, Roy Lichtenstein, Olafur Eliasson and Anselm Kiefer will be sold beginning at 7 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (2 p.m. Eastern). LiveAuctioneers will provide Internet live bidding.

Highlights will come fast starting with lot 4, Ugo Rondinone’s stark work of cast aluminum and white enamel titled air/ gets/ into/ everything/ even/ nothing done in 2006. This work is from an edition of three plus two artist’s proofs and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist. The estimate is $300,000-$450,000.

A glazed ceramic bust titled Doppelkopf (Double Head) is the work of sculptor Thomas Schütte. The eerie face, which is 67 1/2 inches tall, carries an estimate of $600,000-$900,000.

Prop for a Film is an important work by Roy Lichtenstein done in 1969 in collaboration with Universal Studios and independent filmmaker Joel Freedman. Magna on board, the work measures 40 by 96 inches. It was later selected for exhibition at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. It carries an estimate of $700,000-$1 million.

Additional highlights include Out There, an oil on linen by Bridget Riley, which has a $600,000-$750,000, and Ciclo, an oil and newspaper collage on canvas by Emilio Vendova, one of postwar Italy’s most accomplished painters, which is estimated at $600,000-$900,000.

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Ugo Rondinone’s ‘air/ gets/ into/ everything/ even/ nothing’ measures 150 inches by 150 inches by 131 7/8 inches. It has a $300,000-$450,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

Ugo Rondinone’s ‘air/ gets/ into/ everything/ even/ nothing’ measures 150 inches by 150 inches by 131 7/8 inches. It has a $300,000-$450,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art chose Roy Lichtenstein to participate in an Art and Technology project in 1969. The result was his large magna on board image titled ‘Prop for a Film.’ It is expected to sell for as much as $1 million. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art chose Roy Lichtenstein to participate in an Art and Technology project in 1969. The result was his large magna on board image titled ‘Prop for a Film.’ It is expected to sell for as much as $1 million. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.


Bridget Riley painted ‘Out There’ in 2004. The oil on linen measures 51 inches by 153 1/2 inches and has a $600,000-$750,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

Bridget Riley painted ‘Out There’ in 2004. The oil on linen measures 51 inches by 153 1/2 inches and has a $600,000-$750,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.


Italy’s Emilio Vendova created ‘Ciclo’ in 1960-62. The signed and dated work has a $600,000-$900,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

Italy’s Emilio Vendova created ‘Ciclo’ in 1960-62. The signed and dated work has a $600,000-$900,000 estimate. Image courtesy of Phillips de Pury & Co.

Image courtesy Dorotheum Vienna.

World’s largest gold coin auctioned for $4.02M

Image courtesy Dorotheum Vienna.

Image courtesy Dorotheum Vienna.

VIENNA (ACNI) – At an auction today in Vienna, the world’s largest gold coin was sold for euro3.27 million (US$4.02 million).

The 2007 Canadian million-dollar-denomination Maple Leaf coin was offered by the Dorotheum, the largest auction house in Continental Europe. Reportedly, eight bidders were in competition.

Made of pure gold, the coin weighs in at 100 kg (220.46 lbs.) and is 999.99/1000 gold. One side of the coin bears the image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, while the other features three maple leaves, the national symbol of Canada.

The coin was sold on behalf of the liquidators for Austrian investment and venture capital firm AvW Invest AG. It was purchased by Oro Direct, the largest precious metal trading company on the Spanish Peninsula. According to Oro Direct’s Web site, the company sells gold products issued by the Austrian Mint and Argor Heraeus.

According to a spokesperson for the Dorotheum, the outstanding price achieved by the coin “was largely influenced, as expected, by the currently very high price of gold.”

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