The San Francisco Weekly has a compelling story that can be summed up in this sentence:
The free-for-all nature of the world of expensive art seems designed to confuse the difference between cheating and simply trying to make a living.
Why? Because they follow the story of Nancy Wandlass, who despite these troubles, remains an art dealer:
February 2007 was a tough month for Nancy Wandlass, an international art dealer known for her Louis Vuitton handbags, $30,000 Escada wardrobe, and constant presence at the Marina District’s tony Rose Cafe. Two months earlier she’d been arrested with her husband, Thomas, on charges of fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy for allegedly stealing two 19th-century French paintings valued at $300,000. Adding further stress, Wandlass was attempting to crawl out from under millions of dollars’ worth of past-due bills in bankruptcy court. The Wandlasses had run Pacific Heights Gallery from a condominium they owned on Jackson Street, but it was now buried in liens and heading irreversibly toward bankruptcy sale.
Wandlass was wearing out her welcome in the SF art world but she tried to convince a judge that she was working on a deal that would make everything right. The only problem was the nature of that deal:
In early 2007 she was serving as middleman for the sale of two modern paintings — “Hannibal” by Jean-Michel Basquiat, valued at $8 million, and “Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave” by Roy Lichtenstein, appraised at $3.5 million.
But, as seems to sometimes be the case with the Wandlasses, their business dealings were accompanied by a troubling backstory: The Basquiat and Lichtenstein paintings were contraband. They’d been smuggled into the U.S. with the help of falsified Customs documents after disappearing from the collection of a Brazilian banker convicted of fraud. The U.S. is now seeking to repatriate the paintings on behalf of the Brazilian government.
Read the whole story. It’s priceless.