Two Crazy Art Stories


Hyperallergic is a leading voice in contemporary perspectives on art, culture, and more. The online publication was founded by the husband-and-husband team, Veken Gueyikian and Hrag Vartanian, in 2009 as a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art in society. With over one million visitors monthly, Hyperallergic combines round-the-clock art world news coverage with insightful commentary.

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Missing Picasso Resurfaces at Home of Former Philippines First Lady

Imelda Marcos and her husband were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the country.

by Elaine Velue May 22, 2022 Print

In photos of Bongbong Marcos, Jr.’s visit to Imelda Marcos last week, Picasso’s “Woman Reclining VI” can be seen hanging above the sofa on the left. (screenshot of a news broadcast from TV Patrol)

President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan at a state dinner for President Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos in 1982 (courtesy National Archives)
The US Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Bosworth with President Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos in 1984. (courtesy National Archives)

After winning the presidential election in the Philippines last week, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. made a publicized visit to the home of his mother, Imelda Marcos. In the background of their meeting, a supposedly seized Pablo Picasso painting made a surprise appearance. 

The 92-year-old ex-first lady of the Philippines is perhaps best known for her shoes, nearly 3,000 pairs of them, which were broadcast to the world when civilians stormed the presidential palace in 1986 and ousted her family from power. Her late husband, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., had reigned as dictator since 1965, during which time he eliminated free speech, abolished congress, and enacted martial law for half his term. Marcos arbitrarily jailed tens of thousands of people and killed, tortured, and “forcibly disappeared” thousands more. The family fled to Hawaii and returned to the Philippines in 1991.

The family also stole an estimated $10 billionfrom the Filipino people, which they used to fund a famously opulent lifestyle — dozens of mansions, expensive cars, yachts, planes, helicopters, jewelry (worth at least $21 million), and of course Imelda’s designer shoe collection. As the country sank into recession, the family also bought millions of dollars worth of art, including Picasso’s “Reclining Woman VI.” The painting was supposed to have been seized in 2014.

The family has hidden its money, and art, so well that even after decades of trying, getting it back has proved nearly impossible. In 2018, Imelda Marcos was convicted of corruptionand sentenced to prison, but she never served her sentence, and only around $4 billion of the family’s fortune has been recovered.

In 2013, Imelda’s former assistant tried to sell four Impressionist paintings and was convicted of criminal tax fraud and conspiracy in New York. A year later, Filipino authorities seized 15 paintings from the Marcoses’ home in San Juan, including Picasso’s painting. 

And then in 2019, the ex-first lady was caught on film with the painting in Lauren Greenfield’s documentary The Kingmaker, but the sighting didn’t make much of a stir.

It is unknown whether the Picasso turned over in 2014 was a fake, or whether the one currently on display is. (Imelda has been known to acquire fake paintings.)

“Personally I know that what we seized was a fake,” the former head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the body that conducted the 2014 raid, Andres Bautista told Filipino news outlet Rappler last week.

The Marcos family returned to the Philippines in 1991, and Imelda was elected into the House of Representatives in the late 1990s. As the memory of her late husband’s dictatorship waned, she began to once again flaunt her wealth — saying things like “there is more money the government is not yet aware of” and “we own practically everything in the Philippines.” The brazen display of the Picasso suggests that she’s doing it again, now with the confidence of her family’s return to presidential power.

President-elect Bongbong Marcos does not acknowledge his father’s human rights abuses. In his campaign, he spread misinformation on social media to contort his family’s history and fuel nostalgia for the dictatorial regime. Sara Duterte was voted in as his Vice President. She is the daughter of outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, who although popular, has repeatedly violated human rights, and his “war on drugs” has killed tens of thousands of Filipinos.


“Brazen” Couple Tries to Walk Out of Manhattan Gallery With a Basquiat

The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.

by Valentina Di LisciaMay 26, 2022Print

The suspects in the theft captured walking down a street near the gallery (image courtesy NYPD)

A couple visited a New York gallery and casually attempted to walk out with an original artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

On Saturday, May 14, a man and a woman entered Taglialatella Galleries in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and proceeded to take a Basquiat screenprint off the wall. They were intercepted by a gallery worker on their way out.

“It was pretty brazen. We’ve had stuff stolen from the gallery before but nothing quite this obvious,” Taglialatella Galleries owner Brian Swarts told Hyperallergic. “Luckily my staff is quite attentive and courageous and one of the brave young women who work here literally pulled the piece from the guy’s hand.”Basquiat’s “Dog Leg Study” (1982/2019) in the gallery office (photo courtesy Taglialatella Galleries)

Measuring about three and a half feet wide framed, “Dog Leg Study” (1982/2019) was hanging in Swarts’s office, which also functions as a private viewing room for clients. Security camera footage showed the unidentified thieves making their way past the gallery’s public exhibition space and into the empty office, where they appeared to assess the artwork’s value by taking a photo and looking up details on their phone. 

They then lifted the piece off the wall and walked toward the gallery exit, also taking with them “about a third of a bottle of Maker’s Mark,” Swarts said. 

“Dog Leg Study” is valued at $45,000. In a news release, NYPD described the couple as having “an unknown European accent” and released surveillance footage showing the pair holding hands and walking down a street near the gallery. 

A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) told Hyperallergic that there have been no arrests and the investigation remains ongoing. 

It wasn’t the first time the gallery grappled with a robbery attempt. Last year, someone tried to purloin a Kaws figurine that was on display. “That’s typically what people try to steal, small sculptures or pieces they can put in a hoodie or a backpack,” Swarts continued. “But never a work that was framed like that.”

At the end of the day, though, Swarts said, “They made it out with a little bit of whiskey but nothing else. All is well.”

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