A Week of Surreal Headlines: A Charging Bull Smashed by Man Wielding Banjo, A Stolen 18-Karat Gold Toilet, and a $20 Million Consignment Decided by a Game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Wilson Elser
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Wilson Elser

UNITED STATES

Mercedes-Benz Suit Against Street Artists Allowed to Proceed
Mercedes-Benz brought a declaratory judgment action against four street artists who saw their work prominently displayed on social media as background for the automaker’s G-Class track ads. Mercedes is seeking a declaration that its use of the artworks was not a copyright infringement as it was either fair use or because the claim is precluded by the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (1990). After a hearing last week, a Detroit court denied the artists’ motions to dismiss Mercedes’s claims. The artists contended, among other things, that Mercedes’s claim was not ripe as the artists have not yet registered their copyrights. Distinguishing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com, this court concluded that copyright registration is not a prerequisite for an action seeking a declaration of non-infringement.

Los Angeles Police Department Seeks to Reunite Recently Discovered Artworks with Their Owners
The LAPD has uncovered a trove of more than 100 antiques and artworks that have been missing since a spree of thefts in 1993, including works by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. Two individuals involved in the thefts were captured in 1993, but it was not until this summer that an auctioneer’s tip led to the discoveries.

Charging Bull, a Symbol of Wall Street Power, Damaged by a Man with a Banjo
A man armed with a metal banjo bashed the famous Charging Bull on Wall Street, leaving it with a six-inch gash and several scratches. The attacker, who was arraigned and released without bail, gave no motive for his actions. He is due back in court on October 16. The artwork was installed in December 1989 by sculptor Arturo Di Modica, intended as a symbol of optimism after the Black Monday stock market crash in 1987.

EUROPE

Works of Art from the Collection of Nazi Collaborator Hildebrand Gurlitt to Be Exhibited in Israeli Museum
Artworks amassed by Hildebrand Gurlitt, noted Nazi collaborator, will go on view for the first time at the Israel Museum later this month. The collection includes works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Otto Dix and Max Ernst, among others. The show will include works declared “degenerate” by the Nazis and acquired by Gurlitt during the war, as well as works that have no red flags that might indicate ties to the Nazis. The exhibition, called “Fateful Choices: Art from the Gurlitt Trove,” reveals the historical circumstances behind the fate of art during the Third Reich and is intended to generate discussion about art and ethics.

Extreme Weather Leads to the Reemergence of a “Spanish Stonehenge”
This summer, an extreme drought in the Extremadura area of Spain has revealed the “Dolmen de Guadalperal,” a series of megalithic stones that were previously submerged. The Dolmen are 7,000 years old and are located in the Valdecañas Reservoir. They were last seen in 1963. A local group is working to move the Dolmen before they submerge again.

Police on the Hunt for Maurizio Cattelan’s 18-Carat Gold Toilet
Maurizio Cattelan’s America (2016), a fully functioning 18-carat gold toilet, was stolen from an exhibition at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, UK. Blenheim Palace is the 18th Century home and ancestral seat of the Duke of Marlborough. The burglars caused significant damage and flooding while removing the toilet.

Gagosian Gallery Adds Estate of Simon Hantaï to Its Roster
Gagosian Gallery added the estate of postwar abstractionist Simon Hantaï. Gagosian will host its first Hantaï show in October at its gallery in France. Hantaï, who is well known for his surrealist and abstract expressionist works, died in 2008. He is beloved in France and represented the country at the Venice Biennale in 1982.

Arrests Made in Connection with a String of Forgeries of High-Profile Old Master Paintings
An arrest was made and an additional warrant issued in connection with a high-profile string of suspected forgeries of Old Master paintings uncovered in 2016. The scandal has involved such institutions at the Louvre, London’s National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum. The forgery ring may have been involved in as much as $255 million in sales of fake Old Masters.

Banksy Gallerist Calls It Quits
Steve Lazarides, who started out as the driver, photographer and later dealer for street artist Banksy, is leaving gallery life. Lazarides said that he entered the art world to “promote a subculture that was being overlooked, and that’s gone now.” His first project post-gallery life is to sort through the 12,000 photographs he took over 11 years with Banksy and publishing a book titled Banksy Captured.

ASIA

Art Recovery International Calls for the Return of a Painting They Allege Was Stolen from a UK Residence in 1984
Art Recovery International seeks intervention from the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in the return on a painting, The Portrait of Miss Mathew, later Lady Elizabeth Mathew, sitting with her dog before a landscape, which was allegedly stolen from the home of Sir Henry and Lady Price in East Sussex in 1984. The painting is currently located at Tokyo’s Fuji Art Museum, an ICOM member. The museum is contesting the claim.

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts Will Soon Take Over Russia’s National Centre for Contemporary Arts
Russia’s National Centre for Contemporary Arts (NCCA), which consists of nine branches, has begun merging with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow as part of Pushkin’s ambition to open a “Pushkin Modern.” Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s minister of culture, announced the merger in July, saying that NCCA staff had requested the merger after a series of ideological and financial scandals.

How a $20 Million Consignment Was Decided by a Game of Rock, Paper, Scissors
In the spring of 2005, a Japanese electronics giant decided to auction off works from its art collection worth about $20 million. The collection included works by Paul Cézanne, Camille Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and others. Unable to choose whether to consign with Sotheby’s or Christie’s, the company president decided that representatives from each company would meet at the Tokyo office and compete in a game of rock, paper, scissors. Christie’s chose scissors and Sotheby’s chose paper, and we all know scissors cut paper!

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