Private

In a Landmark Restitution, the U.S. Returns 200 Looted Antiquities From Top Museums and Private Collections to Italy


Painted jars, marble busts, ceramic figurines, and even an ancient Roman statue reportedly sold to Kim Kardashian are part of a trove of 200 objects confiscated by U.S. authorities that have landed in Italy as part of the largest-ever repatriation agreement between the two countries. The objects were surrendered by museums and private collections across the United States.

The haul, which traveled on a commercial flight to Rome on Friday, is estimated to be worth around $10 million. “For years, prestigious museums and private collectors across the United States prominently displayed these Italian historical treasures even though their very presence in America constituted evidence of cultural heritage crimes,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in a statement.

Around 160 of them are linked to a single antiquities dealer, Edoardo Almagià, a 70-year-old from Rome accused of running a 30-year smuggling operation. Due to statutes of limitations, he is unlikely to face criminal charges. But for Italy, the objects’ return is a victory in its own right.

Pithos with Ulysses, Head of a Maiden, and Baltimore Painter Krater, three of some 200 stolen artifacts the Manhattan D.A. is repatriating to Italy. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan D.A.

Pithos with Ulysses, Head of a Maiden, and Baltimore Painter Krater, three of some 200 stolen artifacts the Manhattan D.A. is repatriating to Italy. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan D.A.

“What is most important is that these very important archaeological findings come back that are part of our culture identity,” Italian police official Roberto Riccardi, who serves in a cultural heritage unit of the Carabinieri, told the New York Times.

Seven of the repatriated artifacts were from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, including a 2,500-year-old wine cup. The San Antonio Museum of Art returned five Greco-Roman jars and plates and a selection of pottery fragments, while the Cleveland Museum of Art turned over three works.

Others came from galleries and private collections in New York City and Long Island. According to federal documents, Kim Kardashian was in the process of acquiring one of the works, an ancient Roman statue, when it was detained at the U.S. border in 2016. (A spokesman for the celebrity later told Midnight Publishing Group News that Kardashian had “never seen this sculpture,” leading to speculation that her ex Kanye West was behind the scuppered purchase.)

Nearly half of the illicit objects were from the Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art at Fordham University in the Bronx. The museum opened in 2007 at the school’s Walsh Library, which is named after alumnus and donor William D. Walsh, who gifted his alma mater his collection of 260 antiquities. He later donated an additional 40 objects to the museum, which has since made modest acquisitions of its own.

Fordham has been forced to turn over a cache of about 100 Greco-Roman artifacts valued at close to $2 million, all but two of which come from Almagià. The museum’s holdings still include some 200 antiquities.

Authorities maintain that Walsh, who died in 2013, was unaware of Almagià’s illicit actions, but news coverage of the museum’s opening noted the potential for looted art.

“It’s a slightly imprudent act on the part of the university, because a lot of it is not provenanced,” Richard Hodges, the director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, told the New York Times at the time.

For his part, Almagià denied and attempted to minimize the allegations against him when reached by the Times. Investigations into his actions date back to at least 1996. In 2000, he was caught with stolen frescoes from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum at New York’s Kennedy Airport.

He left the U.S. in 2006 and authorities raided his Upper East Side apartment, finding six looted artifacts. An Italian court acquitted Almagià in a 2012 smuggling case, but the ruling acknowledged he had helped illegally move Italian antiquities.

The Manhattan D.A.’s office believes that other museums around the country still hold artifacts once owned by Almagià, so additional restitutions may be forthcoming.

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In an Expansion, the Rubell Museum Will Bring Its Tastemaking Private Art Collection to Washington, D.C., Next Year


Miami’s Rubell Museum, one of the most prestigious and influential private contemporary art institutions in the U.S., is expanding with a long-awaited second location in Washington, D.C.

Founded by Don and Mera Rubell, the institution is a showcase for their extensive art collection. For emerging artists, the Rubell’s patronage (and a coveted residency at the museum) can be star-making—Sterling Ruby, Oscar Murillo, Lucy Dodd, and, most recently, Amoako Boafo are among the many artists who have benefitted from their stamp of approval.

The couple began collecting art the year they married, back in 1964. In 1993, they began welcoming the public to the Rubell Family Collection in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. In 2019, the private museum movedwith great fanfare—to the city’s Allapattah neighborhood, rebranding itself the Rubell Museum.

The new D.C. branch will display contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, and installation art in the former Randall Junior High School. The property has a long history in Washington. Originally built in 1906, the school operated until 1978, when the city converted it into a men’s shelter and artist studios.

The Corcoran College of Art + Design bought the building from the city in 2006 and planned to develop it into a campus and luxury condominiums, but the project foundered after the financial crisis. The Rubells, who own the Capitol Skyline Hotel down the street, bought the building from the Corcoran for $6.5 million back in 2010, according to Art in America.

Plagued by delays and partnership changes (last year, the real estate developer Lowe took over the project), the redevelopment now appears to be back on track. It is expected to open by the end of 2022.

Mera Rubell at the construction site for the second location of Miami's Rubell Museum, formerly the Randall School in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

Mera Rubell and and Hany Hasson, the lead architect for the project from Beyer Blinder Belle, at the site for the second location of Miami’s Rubell Museum, formerly the Randall School in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Rubells will take over the central building and east wing, adding a glass entry pavilion designed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners featuring a bookstore, café, and an outdoor dining terrace. The west wing will serve as office space for a variety of companies in creative fields such as nonprofits, cultural institutions, and technology incubators.

A spokesperson for the Rubells declined to offer additional details about their plans for the museum. The couple’s collection includes extensive holdings of work by Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Catherine Opie, Kerry James Marshall, and other famous names.

Lowe, the project’s developer, is also building Gallery 64, a new 12-story residential building, on the 2.7 acre grounds. It will house 492 units of studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, 98 of which will be dedicated to affordable housing. The Historic Preservation Review Board and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission have approved the concept design for the historic property’s redevelopment.

The museum’s 100,000-square-foot Miami campus, designed by Selldorf Architects, features 40 galleries, a library, and a restaurant housed in a retrofitted food processing complex.

See more renderings of the D.C. project below.

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami's Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and PlannersThe Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami's Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami’s Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami's Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami’s Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami's Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami’s Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami's Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Randall School in Washington, D.C., will become home to the second location of Miami’s Rubell Museum and a new Gallery 64 apartment building. Rendering courtesy of Blinder Belle Architects and Planners.

The Rubell Museum DC will be located at 65 Eye Street, SW, Washington, D.C.

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As the New Museum Opens a Lynn Hershman Leeson Show, Check Out a Private Collection of Her Works on the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network


Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

 

About the Artist: Since the 1970s, American artist Lynn Hershman Leeson has focused her practice on the intersection of identity and technology. Her media-driven artworks have explored challenging ideas from artificial intelligence and DNA programming to the relationship between illness and technology. This month, the New Museum will open “Lynn Hershman Leeson: Twisted,” the artist’s first New York solo museum exhibition, which will include many of Hershman Leeson’s most important projects. Highlights include her wax-cast “Breathing Machine” sculptures (1965–68), works from her famed “Roberta Breitmore” series (1973–78), along with a recent large-scale work, Infinity Engine (2014–present), a multimedia installation focused on genetic engineering. 

Why We Like It: Hershman Leeson’s dynamic practice ranges from interactive, internet-based works and films to drawing, sculpture, and photography. Often visually alluring and at times surrealist, her creations interrogate the effects of our seemingly inextricably entwined relationships with technology and what the societal and personal implications of this intimate reliance might be. Plus, she started paying attention to these thorny issues long before you probably did. 

About the Collection: Throughout his lifetime, San Fransisco collector G. Austin Conkey was an ardent supporter of Hershman Leeson’s career. Conkey passed away in 2019, leaving behind a significant collection of her work, which can be explored on the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network. The collection presents a range of the artist’s creative pursuits, with Surrealist dinnerware, drawings, and multimedia collage all appearing. G. Austin Conkey lived and worked in San Fransisco, and from 1970 and 2000, passionately collected works from California’s influential ‘70s conceptual art movement. Also represented in his collection are Allen Adams (ReTooled), Paul Kos, and Tom Marioni. Conkey’s focused approach to collecting offers a unique time capsule of the art of a specific place and time.

 

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Painting Roberta’s Portrait (1975)
G. Austin Conkey Collection
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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Painting Roberta's Portrait (1975). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Painting Roberta’s Portrait (1975). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Lady Luck (1975)
G. Austin Conkey Collection
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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lady Luck (1975). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lady Luck (1975). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

 

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Tillie and Mirror (1998)
G. Austin Conkey Collection
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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Tillie and Mirror (1998). Courtesy of G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Tillie and Mirror (1998). Courtesy of G. Austin Conkey Collection.

 

Lynn Hershman Leeson
“Performance Dinners” Ceramic Plate (1976)
G. Austin Conkey Collection
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Lynn Hershman Leeso, "Performance Dinners" Ceramic plate with 6 mouths with tongue out (1976). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeso, “Performance Dinners” Ceramic Plate with 6 Mouths with Tongue Out (1976). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Untitled (Ronald Reagan) (1983)
G. Austin Conkey Collection
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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Untitled (Ronald Reagan) (1983). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Untitled (Ronald Reagan) (1983). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

 

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Woman (Gradient) (ca. 2003)
G. Austin Conkey Collection
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Lynn Hershman Leeson, Woman (Gradient) (ca. 2003). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, Woman (Gradient) (ca. 2003). Courtesy of the G. Austin Conkey Collection.

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