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Angela Gulbenkian, Collector Facing Fraud Claims Over Kusama Sale Gone Wrong, Arrested in Portugal

Art in America
Art in America
 2020-06-18
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Last week brought news that Inigo Philbrick, an up-and-coming dealer alleged to have engaged in a $20 million scheme involving withheld artworks including a Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Room,” was detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Nearly a week later, a different detainment has garnered attention as another art market figure—who has also been accused of wrongdoing involving a Kusama—has also been arrested.

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Angela Gulbenkian, a German collector currently facing two theft charges, was arrested in Lisbon, where she is being held “in preventive detention” after failing to appear at a court hearing in London in February. Gulbenkian is accused of having stolen two artworks. An unnamed London art dealer filed suit against her in Munich over an Andy Warhol print, which she allegedly took despite having never paid for it, and adviser Mathieu Ticolat has claimed that Gulbenkian never delivered a Kusama pumpkin sculpture for which he paid $1.4 million.

For some close observers of the art market, a comparison between Philbrick and Gulbenkian’s arrests has proven inevitable, as both were market figures who have been accused of scheming collectors out of money. Josh Baer, of the art-market newsletter Baer Faxt, who first reported the news of Gulbenkian’s alleged wrongdoing last year, suggested that Philbrick and Gulbenkian might have thought themselves immune from charges of the kind that have been filed against them. “Many people who buy art think they are too smart to get in trouble,” he told ARTnews. “But this is not the case.”

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