At the end of his career, the British artist Frederic Leighton painted the now-iconic image of a sleeping woman in a vivid orange gown. This nineteenth-century masterpiece embodies the modern philosophy of “art for art’s sake,” the belief that the value of art lies in its aesthetic qualities rather than in its subject matter. The sensuously draped figure — freed from any narrative context — is integrated into a harmonious ensemble of rhythmic lines and radiant color. On loan from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, Flaming June makes its first public appearance in New York City, exhibited alongside the Frick’s four full-length portraits by James McNeill Whistler, another major proponent of “art for art’s sake.”
I don’t call it performance art if anyone else other than the “artiste” would get busted for loitering if engaging in the same activity, but the MMA found the convergence of exhibitionism and celebrity worship:
Two suspects were arrested in Miami Beach after trying to sell “Odalisque in Red Pants,” valued at $3 million, federal prosecutors said.
The painting was stolen from a Venezuelan art museum in 2002, the statement said.
The story started in 2002 when it was discovered that the Matisse hanging in the museum wall was a fake, after the Chavez administration had changed the Board of the museum a couple of years earlier, including Ms. Imber, who had run it from its beginning (And purchased this particular painting for a relatively low price)
Initially there were accusations that the painting had disappeared after the management change, but others have suggested that the switch took place even before when the painting was lent in 1997 to a Spanish exhibit. However, those at the museum until the management change have stated privately that they would have certainly noticed the switch. The current Director of the museum has suggested it was an inside job, without ever explaining her statement.
The switch was discovered when a collector was offered the painting in 2001-2002 and began performing due diligence on the painting and wrote to the Director of the museum. This led the museum to check the painting and the discovery that the one hanging in Caracas was a fake. The painting was offered to a number of collectors and rumors of that it was for sale have recurred over the years.
Hopefully, with the recovery of the painting the full story of the switcheroo will be revealed and those responsible prosecuted.
For now, this is another picturesque (pun intended) story of the always devious Venezuelans in Government (no matter when the switch took place) always looking for an angle that will make them rich overnight.