Sunday, September 13, 2020

Is Portland Burning?

Report from a friend in Portland ...

With Apologies to my readers abroad this is a very American story but I think it has some valuable lessons for people everywhere.  Portland, Oregon, a bastion of liberal Democrats, has been singled out by the administration and the media as a hotbed of anarchy.  Naturally, worrying about a good friend there we asked him what his perception of the situation really was.   He happens to also be a former newspaper reporter and here is his reply ...

What's going on in Portland? It's much, much calmer than the news (and especially the right-wing media and the Dumpster in Chief) make it out to be. The action is generally confined to a very few, very small hot spots while most of the city is business as usual-as-it-gets-in-the-midst-of-an-international-health-crisis.

The problem is, we're down to the hardcore -- maybe 200 determined ultra lefties who taunt the cops and the white supremacists, hoping they'll go over the line and attack. Often the cops do: Like so many forces across the nation, Portland's is riddled with heavily armed white supremacists who cozy up to the right-wingers, ignore everything they do, and then attack the BLM protesters after the right-wingers have moved on.

The police union is a huge problem -- the cops hide behind its near-absolute protection, and it's stronger than either the police chief or the mayor. It needs to be busted -- and I support unions.

Trump is obviously using the Portland "situation" to pull a Willie Horton on voters, hoping that fear of urban liberals and the dread "Antifa" will round him up enough votes in swing states to pull this thing off. The killing the other night plays straight into his hands, and that truly scares me.

Details are still scant, but apparently the guy who got shot had just maced some people on the street, and one of them then shot him in the stomach. The right-wingers almost all come from outside Portland, hoping to stir up trouble, which they do, with the aid and abetting of the cops and the criminal president (note that I do not pretend to journalistic "objectivity" in this instance). I've figured the way things have been going a death was almost inevitable. Now it's happened, and there could be hell to pay. Trump would dearly love to send in federal troops of one sort or another and bash heads in Portland to win votes elsewhere.

And yet, the vast majority of the city is unscathed. This is hardly the Watts Riots. Plus, property damage is minimal (you read about federal buildings being set on fire: in reality, they're tiny little things on the floor that are put out immediately) and except for immediately after the Minneapolis murder, when there was a mass of window-smashing downtown, looting has been nonexistent. Portland's targeted by the right. Why? Basically, because we're a Scandinavian city in a nation that hates the idea of social democracy. (There: Off the soapbox now.)”

The protests have now lasted over a hundred days and the self-proclaimed Antifa activist who claimed he shot the member of the Rightwing group in self-defense has himself been shot dead by federal marshals.

Here is an article in the New York Times written around the same time as our friend’s report. It gives an insight into the local Portland protesters, as opposed to the extremists from Right and Left who are getting the spotlight:

Edgar Allan Poe wrote, ““Believe nothing you hear and only one half that you see.”  Unfortunately, I may add, and even less of what you read.  Unfortunately, sometimes, the media is parroting what is coming from hate groups!

There were student riots in Paris, France in 1968 when I had to go there for work.  Everyone thought I was crazy to go because the Newspaper reports made is sound like the city was on fire.  The truth was that most if not all the fuss was around the school, the Sorbonne, and most of what was burning were car tires.

Guess what, I did not visit the student quarter and neither had nor saw any issues during my visit.  So, I learned it is best to find out the details behind a story and not just read the headlines!


NB: A question hanging over my last missive was how did the Tiffany Fire Hood survive with a salvage company.  Now, I have heard from Norton’s source, Arlie Sulka at Lillian Nassau, there was an additional owner.  She wrote, “I acquired the piece from a private collector who had been storing it for many years”

Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Tiffany Fireplace in Florida

As you know I was a dealer in Old Master paintings and my wife trained in the field of French 18th century decorative arts.  After joining the Metropolitan Museum, she discovered some pieces in the storerooms of the Met of French furniture made by Emile Jacques Ruhlmann and other Parisian works of the 1920s and published one of the first articles defining Art Deco.  As curator she was able to bring the Met pieces out of storage and establish the field of 20th-century decorative arts at the Met, later known as the design collection.

I mention this to explain that our first collection which we put together for ourselves was in Art Deco and Art Nouveau under the latter category one can place Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933).  We visited all the dealers in the field. One which we felt very close to was Lilian Nassau who established her eponymous gallery in 1945 specializing in Tiffany.  After Lillian Nassau retired (she passed away in 1995) her son Paul took over the gallery.  Then in 2006 Lillian's associate since 1980, Arlie Sulka, acquired The Lillian Nassau Gallery.

Sometimes an art dealer has the deep satisfaction of knowing where a piece belongs and succeeds in placing it there. As soon as Arlie Sulka was able to acquire the fireplace hood from  Laurelton Hall, she knew to get in direct touch with the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida.

The Morse Museum was founded in 1942 and according to its website it houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), including the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps, and windows; his chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; and art and architectural objects from his Long Island country estate, Laurelton Hall.

The Chapel by Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Morse

When I asked Arlie about this sale she responded, “Having been able to exhibit the fireplace hood and to subsequently facilitate its placement in the permanent collection of the Morse is deeply gratifying. I feel fortunate to have had this tour de force at Lillian Nassau for both its historical significance and its very personal connection to Louis Comfort Tiffany. While the gallery has handled many Tiffany masterpieces over the past 75 years, I consider the fireplace to be among the most significant objects ever to come through our hands.”

The communications director at the Morse, Emily Margaret Sujka, saw that I had published the photo before when I saw the fire hood the first time in the Lillian Nassau booth at TEFAF (the European Art Fair) New York Edition, last year.  Since it had obviously struck my fancy, she contacted me about the museum’s acquisition supplying more information about its provenance. 

The piece was designed and fabricated in Tiffany’s studio and installed around 1883 in his 72nd Street home in New York City. Building Laurelton Hall with the idea of filling it with his most important works, Tiffany had moved the fireplace hood there in 1919. When the country house burned in 1957 the fireplace hood was thought to have been destroyed.  Apparently, it was salvaged by the demolition company and remained in their warehouse until its recent discovery.

Fireplace in situ in Tiffany’s 72nd Street Home

This is a case in point of the strange life of objects: an architectural object resurrected from the ashes of the home the artist planned as the showcase of his achievement, to be acquired by a museum that has fulfilled his vision as the greatest repository of his work.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Theater, Film, And Then Some

I work in a small office with other small offices for independent professionals down the corridor.  When we need a break from our individual work my office mates meet in the hall with masks and ask each other what we have done or seen recently.  Everyone is wondering what to do with themselves with restaurants, theaters, and movies closed or with limited access.

My wife and I are theater buffs, as mentioned in a previous Missive. The last edition of The New Yorker that I found having a review of a live show was March 23 it seems like years ago now. We found a way to get our theater fix by subscribing to BroadwayHD which offers many choices of live recorded theater and films of former shows or movies based on shows.  In round figures, the app costs $100/year which these days might not even pay for a ticket to a single Broadway show and certainly not a pair of tickets!

Let’s look at this app in a little more depth. Trying to pick what to watch is the only difficult part. There are the recordings of shows you would expect to see such as “Les Miserables”, “The King & I” and “Death of a Salesman”.  Fine by us as nostalgia has become more important to us as we try to think back to normal. times.  

It has been difficult to decide which plays to write about since I cannot remember if we have seen them live or on Memorex.  We saw “Red” on Broadway and in a local production at the Lensic and it is offered on BroadwayHD. We saw “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well” in a small New York theatre where we sat in the first row and got spat on by the star every time he belted out a song. The recorded version was less intimate, but, if you love theater, it is always interesting to see a show handled in a new way in a different production.

If you become enamored of a show there is sometimes a video on the making of the show! Another interesting documentary was “Repeat Attenders”, but I wrote about that one a few weeks ago.

A musical comedy which I had not seen before is “She Loves Me”.  There is a wonderful version from The Roundabout Theater in New York on BroadwayHD.  The plot involves co-workers in a small shop who do not get along very well but find out that they have been pen pals for quite a while, a piece of fluff but superbly performed.

In the case of “Daddy Longlegs”, a Cinderella story of a young woman at college and her benefactor, we have a novel, turned into a movie with Fred Astaire and now the filming of an original off-Broadway musical version.  It is absolutely charming. As video captures some of the excitement of a live audience, we even joined in the applause every once in a while.

“The Goes Wrong Show” is a slap-stick comedy series that demonstrates, in highly exaggerated form, what can happen if someone doesn’t do their job correctly in a theatrical production. On one episode where the scenic designer got the specifications totally wrong and the actors have to squeeze themselves into sets where they can’t possibly fit.  If you are just looking for a good laugh, take a look.  The episodes are not related so it is something you can come back to weeks later when you need your next laugh … if you can wait that that long!

Most recently we watched a movie made from the play “Copenhagen”, by Michael Frayn, that we saw on Broadway years ago and loved. It is about a meeting between Niels Bohr (Danish) and Werner Heisenberg (German).  They were nuclear physicists and the former was the latter’s teacher. The plot revolves around their meeting in 1941 and put simply it involves the ethics of the use of nuclear weapons. The BBC remade the show in this excellent film in 2002.  You will find yourself holding your breath by the end.  The acting is so superb that you can feel the anguish of all three characters.

Comedies are fun and I love musicals, but I like best when I see a show that I keep thinking about days and weeks after I have seen it.

Maybe, I should mention that I have no stake in BroadwayHD but I am quite excited over our “discovery”.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Thomas Hoving Redux

I am taking a week or two off and therefore repeating an old missive with a couple of corrections and additions.  Since I started on a theme some weeks back I thought my repeat would be about another great client and Director of a great museum ...

Thomas P. F. Hoving (1931-2009) 

In my opinion, Tom Hoving was a genius.  Now there are different kinds of genius but maybe if I tell a little bit about him, you will get my meaning.  Tom was the son of Walter Hoving, the head of Tiffany’s.  It is said he was something of a “cut-up” as a boy, being thrown out of various schools, but this seems to not be that unusual for above-average students who are probably bored by the routine and teachers who did not inspire them.

At Princeton University, however, he excelled and got all his degrees there ending with a doctorate in Art History in 1959.  He went then to the Metropolitan Museum as a Fellow in the department of medieval art working at the Cloisters.  By 1965 he was running the department.  He was called upon by then New York Mayor John V. Lindsay to become Parks Commissioner in 1966.  He only stayed in that position for 14 months before returning to the Metropolitan as Director.  However, in that time he transformed Central Park.  When I went with my children a few years later to show them the secret places I rode my bike when I was young they were no longer secret.  There were people everywhere.  They came from the East Side, Harlem and Spanish Harlem all sharing this wonderful oasis in the center of Manhattan.

Ralph Blumenthal who was writing for the New York Times during that time wrote on December 11, 2009, after Tom’s death, “Remembering Hoving’s Service as Parks Commissioner”  “More than anyone, he put the actual fun in Fun City.  He was a natural showman and, as I quickly discovered, he didn’t much mind having his own Times reporter around to showcase his zany brilliance and flamboyance. Not for nothing did he joke that his middle initials stood for “Publicity Forever.”  Sure he used the press. But he was great copy and got one eager young reporter lots of space in the paper. He did not know the meaning of “no comment.’”  I am personally sure that if Tom were again at the helm of the Metropolitan he would put the present administration to shame as far as social media is concerned.  Unfortunately, it did not exist during his tenure (1967-1977).

When he first came to the Metropolitan he decided he had to learn the market and started by visiting the galleries in New York that had medieval and early Renaissance art.  In the transcript of Rosenberg & Stiebel’s 1989 film “Affairs of Art” I found how it all started with my family gallery.  He said the following:  “Some of the gallery owners I visited threw me out. They thought I could not be true.  I was too young and too disheveled to be truly a curatorial type….. I  approached Rosenberg & Stiebel with a sense of trepidation because I had heard that this was THE most elegant and the most sophisticated dealer of medieval art and I was allowed to see everything, and this was a unique experience because the other dealers I’d visited did not allow me to see everything ...”  “I learned right off one thing about Rosenberg & Stiebel, that the attitude of the establishment was such that they were partners with curators …”  So Tom became a good client on the basis of that first impression.

In 1972 I became a member of an art association in New York and they immediately made me an officer.  This association was a member of an international organization of associations, which had done exhibitions in museums abroad but never in the United States.  Now they wanted an international dealer’s exhibition at the Met.  Still being in my 20’s I had the temerity to say, “My father knows Tom Hoving” (how naïve can one be!)  My colleagues jumped on it and so began a saga in which I was able to bring 300 works of art to the Metropolitan in an exhibition called, “The Grand Gallery” during the 1974-75 season.  Being nice to a novice medieval curator paid off in the long run!

Hoving was credited with being the originator of the ”blockbuster exhibition”.  His first was  “In The Presence of Kings” (1967) where they used turntables and red velvet to show off the art.  It was absolutely scandalous at the time but I loved it and so did many others as they started to pile into the Met.  Hoving was taking the first step toward the modern-day museum where some institutions number their attendance in the millions.

Philippe de Montebello, his successor at the Met was quoted as saying, “People criticized him for his excesses, but you have to remember that it is not the timorous who climb life’s peaks. He has left us with a changed museum world.”

If you want to learn more about Tom Hoving in his own words pick up one of the books he has authored, I counted close to 20 on Amazon and we have 8 in our library.  Probably the most fun and the one quoted the most often is “Making the Mummies Dance” and second in line is “Art for Dummies”.  One of the endorsements for the latter from dealers and museum directors says “As an art history student at Columbia University in the early 60’s, I often went to the Metropolitan Museum to be alone among the masterpieces.  That solitude ended when Tom Hoving became director.  Suddenly the place was hopping; art was no longer just for the elite.  Tom stripped away the veil of intimidation of a museum and with this book he has now done the same for everyone who ever considered learning about and collecting art."- Gerald G. Stiebel, Rosenberg & Stiebel Gallery (1999). 

A couple of weeks ago I posted a clip from a 1989 film we made to celebrate our gallery’s 50 years in the United States.  As mentioned Tom was kind enough to also do an interview for the film so here it is in its entirety.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Making Fun of the Commander In Chief

I have very little respect for the current occupier of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and I know that I am not the only one who feels that way.  if you feel differently, I would recommend you stop reading here and now.  Note Nancy Pelosi ...

Looking through various images of this gentleman whose name shall go unmentioned I had the following thoughts.

This is one of my favorite images to put everyone in the mood.  Translating the German, Angela Merkel saying, “Have you cleaned up your room?  Look at me when I am talking to you.” I heard these statements more than once from my mother!

Having read the book by John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened, the author was continuously frustrated with Trump’s changing his mind at the last minute or, even afterward coming up with a tweet that totally defeated whatever they were trying to accomplish.

Oh My God what is he saying now?

This image with Vice-President Pence says it all ...

Will  I have to do this for another 4 years?

Is there any doubt about this relationship?  When Trump is with Putin, is he asking, “Do you really think we can get away with this?

Brazil is one of the few countries that is doing as badly as the U.S. in the Covid-19 area so should the two leaders shake hands?  One seems to be reluctant.

British politician, Neal Farage, does not look happy about dealing with the Donald.

Even Attorney General Bill Barr is not safe from a scolding.

The president often finds himself wondering what he is talking about.

Finally. our President as he sees himself in the mirror.  His butler has said he likes mirrors everywhere.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Liliane de Rothschild

I like writing about my favorite clients over my decades as an art dealer.  Among them were members of The Rothschild dynasty that originated in Frankfurt-am Main, Germany, my family’s hometown.  

Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) sent his sons to London, Paris, Vienna, and Naples, setting up a banking network across Europe.  Over several generations, my family dealt with the British, French, and Austrian branches of the dynasty.  I learned early on how important personal connections are in life. I have personal evidence that some of the Rothschild’s felt close to our family.  The surviving matriarch of the Vienna Rothschild’s, Clarice, felt perfectly comfortable crashing my first wedding.  It was a large affair and she came in on the arm of another widow and client of ours!

Shortly after that another member of the Rothschild family, this time on the French side, wanted me to meet Baroness Elie de Rothschild (Née Fuld-Springer, 1916-2003).  In order to avoid any awkwardness, the introduction was to be made at a charity luncheon at the home of Baroness Elie (Liliane) de Rothschild.

Liliane de Rothschild

It was a huge affair but after lunch, I got to speak with Baroness Liliane and made two faux pas, one worse than the other.  My parents always had wine with dinner, and I got a sip of wine in my water from the time I could sit at the table!  The wine at this lunch was clearly a step above.  So, when I asked the Baroness about the wine she replied, “Oh, it just one of our little house wines”.  Hearing that line many times over the coming years I learned what that meant.  It was not Lafite but one of the neighboring vineyards … good enough for me!  

My second mistake was commenting on their Constantin Brancusi (1867-1957)… turned out it was a Cycladic head (c. 3200–c. 1050 BC)!  Amazingly enough, after showing off my brilliance, I was still invited back whenever I was in Paris.

Constantin Brancusi, Muse 1912

At that first meeting, Baroness Liliane asked whether I had children and at the time I could say, yes, a boy and a girl.  Liliane’s response was so wonderful I can still hear her  “Le Choix du Roi”, the choice of kings! I have since used the expression whenever the occasion arises. 

Baroness Liliane was a passionate historian, concentrating on 18th century France and in particular, Queen Marie Antoinette.  Our gallery had acquired an ornate key that came to us with the story that it was for the Chapel at Versailles.  It was a good story, but we had no proof.  I told this to Liliane who insisted on buying it anyway.  You can imagine how good I felt when we received a letter (no email back then) saying that the Baroness had been to Versailles and with the director had tried out the key on the Chapel door and it fit!

In 1989 we did a video of our gallery celebrating 50 years in the United States.  It consisted of a history of the family and interviews of museum directors, curators, and private clients.  When she visited New York, Liliane agreed to do an interview from her son’s apartment, and here is her 9-minute segment from the finished product. I was delighted to discover that it is included in the Rothschild archive:

When Baroness Liliane passed away and I told my children that I was going to Paris to be at the funeral. one of them commented, “I thought the Rothschilds lived forever!” For me the memories certainly do.

Sunday, August 2, 2020


You have heard it before and you will hear it a lot more,-- we are living in very strange times.  My daughter who has a bookstore in Wayne, Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia told me months ago that she has to change her methodology daily according to new rules and guidelines and does not know what the next day will bring.

What had not quite dawned on me then is that we are all having to change our methodology daily and nowhere more so than in the arts.  We can no longer go to movies, theaters, or museums, so all entertainment occurs on screen.  We can complain all we want that this is not the real thing, that we need original works of art and live theater, but things are as they are. 

The issue, therefore, is where to get our arts fix using the avenue that remains open.  It might be compared to being let loose in the stacks of the Library of Congress without a card catalog guide us.  We have to find our own way.

One of the new channels we now subscribe to is BroadwayHD.  Since we are avid theatergoers in the good times, we have seen an awful lot and chosen carefully before spending the money on a ticket.  Now, after paying our subscription fee everything is “free”!  So the question is where we want to spend our time.  Often, we want to try something new.

The other night we found an intriguing title, “Repeat Attenders” a 2020 documentary by Australian filmmaker, Mark Dooley.  It was like nothing I have ever seen.  The blurb shown before the show states, “The Theater: Each year, millions of people attend to escape reality. But for a select few, the theatre IS their reality, with some of them seeing the same show hundreds of times. They are Repeat Attenders. Six years in the making, ‘Repeat Attenders’ is a groundbreaking feature documentary, that delves into the psychology behind the extreme superfans of Broadway”.

The reason that musicals attract more recidivists is that they are more accessible to a larger part of the population so usually have longer runs than straight plays.  Previously I had only heard rumors about these devoted fans. Having been married to two former dancers who identified with A Chorus Line (“Everything is Beautiful at the Ballet … Hey, I was Happy at the Ballet”) I saw the show in the theater at least twice and the film as well, but that, for me, was an exception.

The documentary “Repeat Attenders” was comprised of interviews and film clips of performances on Broadway, London’s West End, Bochum, Germany and Melbourne, Australia of Cats, Rent, Les Misérables, and Starlight Express.

In the film, they revealed the passion that lead people from different countries to attend multiple performances of their favorite shows, as they fell in love with the characters and songs.   A German woman, who loved Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express had a closet full of costumes from the show and even participated in local events as one of the characters.  Her parents had told her she was too ugly and overweight to be an actress, so she found another way to participate. She went as far as dressing her daughter in Starlight Express costumes and make-up as well.  Possibly the entire town of Bochum was obsessed with the show since they built an arena-like theater for it.

Starlight Express Theater in Bochum, Germany

One New York businessman they interviewed had seen Rent 1,169 out of its 5,123 Broadway performances.  He took off from work to sleep on the ground and wait hours or even days for a “rush” last-minute ticket.

Waiting for "rush" tickets

One fan pointed out that if you see a movie multiple times it is the same every time, but in live theater, it is always just a little different.  If my wife and I were repeat attenders I am sure we would argue after every performance on which detail the performers had changed. 

The documentary not only explored how people become obsessed with a show, but it also distinguished them from stalkers, who are obsessed with an individual performer. One man confessed to having stalked a certain actress and how close he came to assaulting her. Here is the trailer.

In the end “Repeat Attenders” demonstrated how theater offers the ultimate escape into another world which is where many of us would like to be right now!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

It’s a Topsy-Turvy World!

I really do not know which end is up anymore when a Museum Director can get the loan of an El Greco and a painting from the circle of Poussin for his museum, from the collection of a member of his family, and this is called self-dealing.  Works by Poussin, and even his circle, are so prized by museums that I once lost a sale to the National Gallery in London because they had to use the money to buy their eleventh Poussin.  Personally, I though a museum did not need more than 10!

This was the headline on ArtNet and a number of other sites: “Current and former staff at the Detroit Institute of Arts are lodging complaints about director Salvador Salort-Pons.”  I may have met the man but never knew him and I cannot judge if he is a good director or not but, the article continues, “Among the more serious allegations against Salort-Pons is that he abused his authority to bolster personal relationships and the value of his family’s art collection.”

The museum has exhibited two paintings owned by Alan May, Salort-Pons’s father-in-law—El Greco’s St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata and a painting attributed to the circle of Nicolas Poussin, An Allegory of Autumn—leading a whistleblower to file a conflict-of-interest complaint with the IRS and the Michigan attorney general. (Showing a work at a prestigious museum can enhance its market value.)”

If we were speaking of a minor, or even a middle of the road, artist museum exhibition might help the value, but El Greco is one of the most important names in art history. If the circle of Poussin painting was exhibited as a Poussin, maybe one could make a case. Buying the paintings for the museum from a family member would be considered a conflict but obtaining their loan is to the benefit of the museum.

Then two of the best curators in the country, Keith Christiansen at the Metropolitan Museum and Gary Garrels at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have both been hauled over the coals recently. Mr. Garrels has even volunteered to resign over a few words considered to be not acceptable in today’s climate.  Statements that a few years ago would not have been given a second thought.  Mr. Garrel's unfortunate remark came after the acquisition of a work of art by a black artist, ““Don’t worry,” he said. “We will definitely still continue to collect white artists.” Failing to do so, he quipped, would be “reverse discrimination.” Not that funny in the best of times, but a joke in poor taste is not worthy of condemnation. 

Now if these two had a history of racial bias that would be valid but there is no such evidence.  I also know Keith rather well and never heard a prejudiced word out of him.  Objections were raised over his personal Instagram post of a drawing of an archeologist trying to save historic tombs of St. Denis during the French Revolution, and his thoughts centering on the observation “How many great works of art have been lost to the desire to rid ourselves of a past of which we don’t approve.”

Another example of the world being turned upside down is, in my opinion, a positive one.  The Supreme Court has decided in a 5-4 decision, that the disputed area covering roughly half of the state of Oklahoma and most of the city of Tulsa belongs to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.  What was the case?  A criminal attorney has been working on an appeal in one of his sexual assault cases for years — arguing that his client, a Native American, can’t be legally prosecuted by the state of Oklahoma because the crime occurred on what has historically been Indian land.  The ramifications are far-reaching.  If you want to make a lawsuit do you sue in a state court or in a tribal court.  Who has the right to tax?  Can Indians in jail get a new trial? Who can regulate oil and gas production in the area?

Whether this is cause and effect or not I have also read that an Oregon arts organization has voluntarily given its building to a Native American group in recognition of historic tribal ownership of the land.  The Yale Union Building in Portland is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic places and has now changed hands and will become the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation in 2021.

No matter, how you feel about these matters you have to admit our world is topsy-turvy!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Heists & Break-Ins

The last issue of Business Week Magazine that I received was called “The Heist Issue”. I thought, Wow! Not much business news.  Then I became more interested when they had an article on the Heist from The Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990 where 13 works of art were stolen, 6 paintings including 3 Rembrandts and a Vermeer all cut out of their frames.  The works have never been found.   When Isabella Stewart Gardner made her gift to the City it was with the proviso that everything remains where it was.  What bothers Museum staff is that people come and stare at the empty frames rather than look at the 16,000 other works of art in the Museum.

That started me thinking of robberies that we have been the victim of.  Happily, nothing serious ever happened but in retrospect there were some interesting and even funny aspects to our personal experiences.

I will start with our most expensive attempted robbery that occurred at our home in Santa Fe when they broke our garden door getting in.  Then the alarm scared the perpetrator(s) off. Nothing was missing but it cost us $3,000 to replace the door.

The most fortuitous was probably also here in Santa Fe when potential thieves attempted to break in through a window. No one was in the house, the door was unlocked, and the alarm was not set, so they could have just opened the door and cleaned us out.  Instead they threw a rock managing to hit the window contact point and activating the alarm system. Happily, it scared them off.  Now we never leave without locking up and setting the alarm. 

We did once arrive home at our apartment on the top floor of a New York brownstone to see our wooden door broken through.  We lost cameras and a single fake cufflink from the Metropolitan Museum Shop.  What went through the thief’s mind?  I realized I had left my camera case with equipment in it on the chair in the living room so that was easy, but one cufflink???

Definitely the most bizarre break in was at that same apartment.  A thief running across the rooves from brownstone to brownstone to escape workmen who had discovered him jumped through our kitchen skylight.  In the next room was our baby son (he is 40 now) in the arms of his nanny.  The man did not grab anything, just ran out the front door.  But nanny, still holding baby, chased him down 5 flights of stairs and into the street.  When I heard the story, I thought thank goodness she did not catch up with the perp! 

There is no accounting for what people will do.  My gallery on 57th Street in New York was on the 5th floor of a 15-story business building. The building was locked at night, as were the elevator doors, and there was a watchman.  In this case, they placed a plank from the window of the next-door building to the ledge of the window of my wife’s office and got in. I don’t know what they thought they would find in our gallery. How could they get back over that plank with a piece of French 18th Century furniture or a large old master painting?  What did they take was a Louis XVI gilt bronze clock which was on the table in the elevator hall of the gallery?  They probably thought it was gold. Curiously they also took the $15 electric clock on my wife’s desk.  Guess the thief wanted to make sure he was in time for his next heist! The coda to this story is, when the police came one of the cops wanted to know whether we wanted them to say that the clock had been inside the gallery.  Not police violence but police corruption?  

Later that day I was speaking to a British colleague.  When he asked how things were, I told him fine, but we had been robbed.  He said congratulations and I didn’t understand.  He said, “well you were insured, weren’t you?  Then you made a sale!”  When was the last time you thought that would solve all your problems if the business caught on fire?  By accident, of course!