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U.S. Considers Anti−Money Laundering Bill for Antiquities Market, Following EU’s Lead and Other Headlines


by Jana Farmer on November 22, 2019


Anti−Money Laundering Compliance Bill for the Antiquities Market
The proposed legislation, officially called the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, passed the House of Representatives on October 22 and is now being reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The bill is part of a broader effort to combat money laundering and terrorist financing in the United States and Europe.

The proposed legislation has provoked fierce debate, as it will require antiquities dealers to report even small transactions to the government, alert authorities to suspicious activity and maintain extensive records of sales. It would apply to transactions valued at $10,000 or more. With this legislation, the United States follows the European Union’s lead. By January 2020, EU member states must transpose into their national laws EU’s Fifth Anti−Money Laundering Directive, which requires auction houses, dealers and agents in art and antiquities to carry out checks on transactions and customers.

One of the Priciest Divorces in History Will Lead to Sale of $700 Million Collection
A divorce between billionaire art collectors Harry and Linda Macklowe is winding to a close as the Impressionist and Modern art department head at Christie’s is expected to be appointed receiver and take over the sale of the couple’s massive art collection. New York Justice Laura Drager ordered the appointment of the receiver after the couple could not agree on how to divide up the collection. Justice Drager has ordered the couple to sell off the entire collection.

Disgraced Financier to Turn Over Picasso and Basquiat to Government as Part of $700 Million Settlement
Malaysian financier and art collector Jho Low will soon hand over a trove of art, including works by Picasso, Basquiat, Monet and Van Gogh, as part of a settlement with the United States Department of Justice. This settlement of about $700 million is said to be the largest civil forfeiture ever secured by the Justice Department. The settlement resolves 10 lawsuits brought by the Department against Low over funds allegedly stolen from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Two Different Sets of Alleged Heirs Sue the Lehman Foundation for Restitution of the Same Work
The heirs of two different Holocaust victims have sued the Lehman Foundation in New York for restitution of a multimillion-dollar painting, both claiming ownership of the work. The painting, a 1917 work by Egon Schiele estimated to be worth $5 million to $7 million, was purchased from the Marlborough Gallery in London in 1964. The heirs of Karl Mayländer, a Jewish businessman killed in Auschwitz, and of Heinrich Rieger, Egon Schiele’s dentist, both claim ownership. The competing heirs were notified of the existence of the work when the current possessor, Robin Owen Lehman, attempted to sell it in 2016.

Art Museum in Rio de Janiero May Close Due to Lack of Federal Funding
The Rio Art Museum on the Rio de Janiero waterfront is in danger of closing in light of delays of the transfer of funds provided by the city’s prefecture to cover payroll costs. On November 8, the organization responsible for administering the museum issued an advance dismissal notice to 126 employees, who have not been paid in months. A spokesman for the museum told The Art Newspaper that they are committed to finding a solution for the overdue amounts, which now total around $380,000.


A Painting Thought for Years to Be a Copy Turns Out to Be a Genuine Botticelli
A painting of a Madonna and child that for decades was thought to be a copy in Botticelli’s style may in fact be a real Botticelli. The painting, currently in the National Museum Cardiff, has been reviewed by infrared reflectography, and some experts now are convinced that it is a genuine Botticelli. The story of the rediscovery has been documented on the BBC Four series Britain’s Lost Masterpieces.

Venice Biennale Forced to Close as Historic Floods Hit Island City
Venice, Italy, was hit by its worst flood in 50 years, forcing the Venice Biennale to close and causing millions of dollars of damage to historic sites. The Art Newspaper reports, however, that no works of art at the Biennale’s Giardini and Arsenale locations, or in the state and civic museums, have been damaged. The mayor of Venice blamed the floods, which peaked at six feet, on climate change and severe rainstorms.


Russian Journalist Discovers Hoard of 20th Century Russian Art Belonging to Two Billionaires on the Run
A Moscow court issued an order for the arrest of brothers Alexei and Dmitry Ananyev, well-known Moscow-based art collectors, in connection of allegations of embezzlement of $1.6 billion. The brothers left behind a hoard of 20th Century Russian art and rare books worth hundreds of millions of rubles. A journalist discovered the collection hidden in a storage facility near Moscow. While there is no existing protocol as to what may happen to the discovered artworks, a Moscow lawyer opined that they may be distributed among state museums.

Sculptures of Buddha Dating from the 4th to 6th Centuries Finally Returned to Afghanistan
Nine clay heads and a torso believed to date back to the 4th to 6th centuries have been returned to Afghanistan’s national museum after they had been allegedly smuggled out of Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban. The objects were discovered by authorities in 2002 at Heathrow Airport, destined for the black market.


One Year After the Sarr-Savoy Report, France Has Not Returned a Single Item to Africa
One year ago, Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy submitted a report to French President Emanual Macron recommending the return of about 90,000 Sub-Saharan African artifacts currently in French museums. So far, no items have been returned to Africa – including the 26 ceremonial items promised by President Macron upon his receipt of the report. Some commentators believed the Sarr-Savoy report was too ambitious, and its long-term effect remains unclear.

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