N.Y. Times Articles

A Picasso Online for Just $450? Yes, It Is a Steal

Published: September 3, 2012

Bargain hunting online? How about an original Rembrandt for $900 (“you can clearly tell its age by the paper,” the seller of this etching attests), or a signed piece in ink by Matisse for $1,250. (The artist’s work is, the online seller notes, “radical and unprecedented in the history of Western art.”)

Yes, Sotheby’s can command more than $100 million for a Picasso at auction. But shoppers on the Web can find an “original” painting by that master for a mere $450 — less than a pair of designer shoes.

Every day works labeled “original” and “authentic” and attributed to titans of the art world are offered at closeout prices by online galleries and auction sites. And every day people buy them.

That these works are sometimes fake or misleadingly labeled is no surprise to art experts and to foundations that monitor online art sales. But fraud has saturated certain sectors of the art market, experts say….

Continue reading  here.

Art’s Sale Value? Zero. The Tax Bill? $29 Million.

Published: July 22, 2012

What is the fair market value of an object that cannot be sold?

Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, NY
Because it includes a stuffed bald eagle, Rauschenberg’s “Canyon” (1959) cannot be sold.

The question may sound like a Zen koan, but it is one that lawyers for the heirs of the New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend and the Internal Revenue Service are set to debate when they meet in Washington next month.

The object under discussion is “Canyon,” a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg that Mrs. Sonnabend’s children inherited when she died in 2007.

Because the work, a sculptural combine, includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, the heirs would be committing a felony if they ever tried to sell it. So their appraisers have valued the work at zero.

But the Internal Revenue Service takes a different view. It has appraised “Canyon” at $65 million and is demanding that the owners pay $29.2 million in taxes.

“It’s hard for me to see how this could be valued this way because it’s illegal to sell it,” said Patti S. Spencer, a lawyer who specializes in trusts and estates but has no role in the case.

The family is now challenging the judgment in tax court and its lawyers are negotiating with the I.R.S. in the hope of finding a resolution….

Continue reading here.


Forgeries? Perhaps Faux Masterpieces

Edward Linsmier for The New York Times

Ken Perenyi lived an extravagant lifestyle off his faked works of the finest masters.

Published: July 18, 2012

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — For nearly three decades Ken Perenyi made a small fortune forging works by popular 18th- and 19th-century artists like Martin Johnson Heade, Gilbert Stuart and Charles Bird King.

Then in 1998, Mr. Perenyi says, two F.B.I. agents showed up on his doorstep, curious about a couple of paintings sold at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, ostensibly by the maritime artist James E. Buttersworth but actually his own meticulous creations.

Over the next few years, he says, the F.B.I. continued to keep a close watch on him at his bayside bungalow here, tracking his work and where it sold, and talking to his friends and associates. Though the authorities never charged him, the scrutiny pushed Mr. Perenyi to develop what he calls “a new business model”: openly selling his faked oils as the reproductions of the finest masters.

Now they are bought by Palm Beach decorators, antiques dealers, professionals, business executives and others who want the look of cultured gentility without the price tag.

“I realized the life I knew and loved was over,” he said of his career as a con man. Whereas one Perenyi forgery fetched more than $700,000 at auction, now he sells a nearly identical work for as little as $5,000. They are the art-world equivalent of a three-carat cubic zirconia that can be flaunted as a Tiffany diamond.

Continue reading here.


Artists Find Benefactors in Web Crowd

Published: March 16, 2012
IN THE LAST year alone, money troubles have pushed the New Mexico Symphony to close, New York City Opera to slash its budget by two-thirds and the State of Kansas to eliminate all public financing for the arts. As formerly reliable employers and patrons struggle to pay their own bills, artists have been forced to intensify their hunt for new fund-raising strategies. Even fictional artists have been affected. On the new NBC series “Smash,” the Broadway producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) tries to sell her beloved Degas just to finance a workshop.

Which is why the prospect of financial crowd-sourcing on the Internet has been enthusiastically embraced by some as an important new model for the future of arts financing.

The question is, how important?

Online financial crowd-sourcing of artists still represents only a smidgen of the more than $8 billion that private individuals donate to the arts each year. Nonetheless, the speedy proliferation of such Web sites has attracted notice.

“Everybody right now is looking for ways to exploit technology to maximize and customize the ways people engage with the arts,” said Sunil Iyengar, research director at the National Endowment for the Arts. Recently United States Artists in Los Angeles, a nonprofit that supports American artists, began USA Projects, and New York Foundation for the Arts started Artspire, two nonprofit variations of online crowd-funding devoted solely to artists or fledgling cultural groups.

Personal contributions — whether from the Medicis, village parishioners or passers-by who toss money into a busker’s hat — have always been the primary way artists have supported their work……

Suitable for Suing

A Rosales painting signed “J. Pollock” and sold for $17 million to a London hedge-fund director who is suing for a refund.

Published: February 22, 2012

NEARLY 17 years ago Glafira Rosales, a little-known art dealer from Long Island, walked into Knoedler & Company’s grand Upper East Side town house with a painting she said was by Mark Rothko. She showed the small board with two clouds of bruised color floating against a backdrop of pale peach to Ann Freedman, the new president of Knoedler, New York’s oldest art gallery.

“It was immediately, from my eyes, a work of interest,” Ms. Freedman recalled later. She was so impressed that she ended up buying the work herself.

For the next decade or so Ms. Rosales frequently arrived at Knoedler’s coffered-ceiling mansion on East 70th Street with what appeared to be paintings by Modernist masters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell….

But now several experts have called the works fakes. One has been formally branded a forgery in a court settlement, and the F.B.I. is investigating. Knoedler, after 165 years in business, has shut its doors and is being sued by a client who bought one of the Rosales works. (The gallery said the closing was a business decision unconnected to the lawsuit.) Ms. Freedman, who maintains that the paintings are authentic, was also named in the suit……

Mrs. Lincoln, I Presume? Well, as It Turns Out …

Photographs from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Left, the altered portrait depicting Mrs. Lincoln; right, the restored image, an unknown woman without a Lincoln brooch.

Published: February 11, 2012

For 32 years, a portrait of a serene Mary Todd Lincoln hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., signed by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a celebrated painter who lived at the White House for six months in 1864.

The story behind the picture was compelling: Mrs. Lincoln had Mr. Carpenter secretly paint her portrait as a surprise for the president, but he was assassinated before she had a chance to present it to him.

Now it turns out that both the portrait and the touching tale accompanying it are false…….


A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond

Margaret Riegel
Published: January 19, 2012

IN 1905, at age 55, Sir William Osler, the most influential physician of his era, decided to retire from the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins. In a farewell speech, Osler talked about the link between age and accomplishment: The “effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of 25 and 40 — these 15 golden years of plenty.”

In comparison, he noted, “men above 40 years of age” are useless. As for those over 60, there would be an “incalculable benefit” in “commercial, political and professional life, if, as a matter of course, men stopped work at this age.”

Although such views did not prevent the doctor from going on to accept a post at Oxford University, one he retained until his death at age 70, his contention that brainpower, creativity and innovation have an early expiration date was, unfortunately, widely accepted by others. Until recently, neurologists believed that brain cells died off without being replaced. Psychologists affirmed the supposition by maintaining that the ability to learn trudged steadfastly downward through the years.

Of course, certain capabilities fall off as you approach 50. Memories of where you left the keys or parked the car mysteriously vanish. Words suddenly go into hiding as you struggle to remember the guy, you know, in that movie, what was it called? And calculating the tip on your dinner check seems to take longer than it used to.

Yet it is also true that there is no preordained march toward senescence.

Some people are much better than their peers at delaying age-related declines in memory and calculating speed. What researchers want to know is why. Why does your 70-year-old neighbor score half her age on a memory test, while you, at 40, have the memory of a senior citizen? If investigators could better detect what protects one person’s mental strengths or chips away at another’s, then perhaps they could devise a program to halt or reverse decline and even shore up improvements.

As it turns out, one essential element of mental fitness has already been identified. “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life,” says Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who specializes in aging. For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade, adding a new twist to the cost-benefit analysis of higher education — for young students as well as those thinking about returning to school.



A Grim Aspect of Modernity (and a Breezy Tour)

Published: January 18, 2012

GOD’S JURY The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World By Cullen Murphy / Photo Credit: Gaspar Tringale

While visiting the Alhambra, Cullen Murphy, editor at large at Vanity Fair, overheard a guide recounting the momentous events of 1492. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella united Spain under a single Roman Catholic monarchy; Columbus journeyed west; and all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were expelled, part of the rulers’ full-bodied embrace of the Inquisition.

“It was a very busy year,” he said to his listeners, who responded with uncertain laughter.

In “God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World” Mr. Murphy functions much like that guide, offering readers a tour of the Inquisition’s nearly 700-year-old edifice. Down to the dungeon to visit gruesome instruments of torture, up to the library to meet the scholars and then a stroll in the garden to survey the surrounding scenery. All the while Mr. Murphy tosses out amusing asides, weighty philosophical observations and contemporary analogies.His aim is, ultimately, deeply serious. Mr. Murphy wants to demonstrate how the mind-set and machinery of the Inquisition are inescapable products of the modern world that later surfaced in Stalin’s Russia, Argentina’s military junta and 21st-century America, where harsh interrogation tactics and unlimited detention were used at Guantánamo Bay.
News Analysis

Get a Midlife

Published: January 5, 2012

YOU may be surprised to learn that when researchers asked people over 65 to pick the age they would most like to return to, the majority bypassed the wild and wrinkle-less pastures of their teens, 20s and 30s, and chose their 40s.

We are more accustomed to seeing the entry into middle age treated as a punch line or a cause for condolences. Despite admonishments that “50 is the new 30,” middle age continues to be used as a metaphor for decline or stasis. Having just completed a book about the history and culture of middle age, I found that the first question people asked me was, “When does it begin?” anxiously hoping to hear a number they hadn’t yet reached.


Bound for Local Glory at Last


TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma has always had a troubled relationship with her native son Woody Guthrie. The communist sympathies of America’s balladeer infuriated local detractors. In 1999 a wealthy donor’s objections forced the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City to cancel a planned exhibition on Guthrie organized by the Smithsonian Institution. It wasn’t until 2006, nearly four decades after his death, that the Oklahoma Hall of Fame got around to adding him to its ranks.

But as places from California to the New York island get ready to celebrate the centennial of Guthrie’s birth, in 2012, Oklahoma is finally ready to welcome him home. The George Kaiser Family Foundationin Tulsa plans to announce this week that it is buying the Guthrie archives from his children and building an exhibition and study center to honor his legacy.

“Oklahoma was like his mother,” said his daughter Nora Guthrie, throwing back her tangle of gray curls as she reached out in an embrace. “Now he’s back in his mother’s arms.”


Possible Forging of Modern Art Is Investigated

Published: December 2, 2011

Federal authorities are investigating whether a parade of paintings and drawings, sold for years by some of New York’s most elite art dealers as the work of Modernist masters like Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock, actually consists of expert forgeries, according to people who have been interviewed or briefed by the investigators.

Most of the works, which have sold individually for as much as $17 million, came to market though a little-known art dealer from Long Island, Glafira Rosales, who said she had what every gallery dreams of: exclusive access to a mystery collector’s cache of undiscovered work by some of the postwar world’s great talents, including Mark Rothko and Richard Diebenkorn.

A Gallery That Helped Create the American Art World Closes Shop After 165 Years

Published: November 30, 2011

After 165 years, Knoedler & Company, one of the oldest and most prestigious art galleries in the country, is permanently closing its doors. Opened at a time when there were no major museums in New York, Knoedler helped shape the tastes as well as decorate the homes of America’s new class of wealthy barons. Although the gallery’s history is long and expansive, its statement Wednesday evening about closing was short and sudden: “It is with profound regret that the owners of Knoedler Gallery announce its closing, effective today. This was a business decision made after careful consideration over the course of an extended period of time. Gallery staff will assist with an orderly winding down of Knoedler Gallery.”

Artists File Lawsuits, Seeking Royalties

Published: November 1, 2011

When the taxi baron Robert Scull sold part of his art collection in a 1973 auction that helped inaugurate today’s money-soused contemporary-art market, several artists watched the proceedings from a standing-room-only section in the back. There, Robert Rauschenberg saw his 1958 painting “Thaw,” originally sold to Scull for $900, bring down the gavel at $85,000. At the end of the Sotheby Parke Bernet sale in New York, Rauschenberg shoved Scull and yelled that he didn’t work so hard “just for you to make that profit.”

The uproar that followed in part inspired the California Resale Royalties Act, requiring anyone reselling a piece of fine art who lives in the state, or who sells the art there for $1,000 or more, to pay the artist 5 percent of the resale price.

That law is now at the center of three class-action suits brought this month by artists who include Chuck Close and Laddie John Dill and the estate of the sculptor Robert Graham. They have filed suit against the auction powerhouses Sotheby’s and Christie’s and the online auction site eBay for failure to pay royalties.

Museum Welcomes Dispute Over Work

Published: October 11, 2011

For many museums, the prospect of a United States attorney swooping in to seize a painting on loan from a foreign institution on suspicions that it had been looted by the Nazis would be a potential public relations and diplomatic nightmare. Chucha Barber of the Brogan Museum with Girolamo Romano’s “Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue.

For the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee, Fla., it has been a fund-raising opportunity.

The museum was in the middle of a do-or-die campaign to raise $500,000 in July when Pamela Marsh, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Florida, ordered the Brogan to hold onto a 16th-century painting on loan from an Italian gallery because it might have been stolen from a Jewish family during World War II.

Baryshnikov Packs Up His Memories in Boxes

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Among the hundreds of video recordings that Mikhail Baryshnikov has collected over the decades are a handful that show him rehearsing with the titans of dance George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. But perhaps the most treasured is a cloudy black-and-white clip of the 16-year-old Baryshnikov at a lesson with his revered teacher Alexander Pushkin at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg.

Courtesy of Baryshnikov, via New York Public Library

“This man just made me as a dancer,” Mr. Baryshnikov explains in another video, an interview from 1974, when he defected to Canada from the Soviet Union. Pushkin, he tells the translator in Russian, was a magician and a father figure.

These videotapes are part of a cache of personal recordings, photographs, documents, letters and scrapbooks that Mr. Baryshnikov, 63, has donated to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. “It’s my whole life,” he said of the 35 boxes of materials that he and his wife, Lisa Rinehart, packed up.

Genetic Basis for Crime: A New Look

Published: June 19, 2011

It was less than 20 years ago that the National Institutes of Health abruptly withdrew funds for a conference on genetics and crime after outraged complaints that the idea smacked of eugenics. The president of the Association of Black Psychologists at the time declared that such research was in itself  “a blatant form of stereotyping and racism.”

The tainted history of using biology to explain criminal behavior has pushed criminologists to reject or ignore genetics and concentrate on social causes: miserable poverty, corrosive addictions, guns. Now that the human genome has been sequenced, and scientists are studying the genetics of areas as varied as alcoholism and party affiliation, criminologists are cautiously returning to the subject. A small cadre of experts is exploring how genes might heighten the risk of committing a crime and whether such a trait can be inherited.

New York Public Library Buys Timothy Leary’s Papers

When the Harvard psychologist and psychedelic explorer Timothy Leary first met the Beat poet Allen Ginsbergin 1960, he welcomed Ginsberg’s participation in the drug experiments he was conducting at the university.


“The first time I took psilocybin — 10 pills — was in the fireside social setting in Cambridge,” Ginsberg wrote in a blow-by-blow description of his experience taking synthesized hallucinogenic mushrooms at Leary’s stately home. At one point Ginsberg, naked and nauseated, began to feel scared, but then “Professor Leary came into my room, looked in my eyes and said I was a great man.”

Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth

Published: June 14, 2011

For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. Rationality allowed a solitary thinker to blaze a path to philosophical, moral and scientific enlightenment.

Steven Ahlgren for The New York Times

Hugo Mercier is among the researchers now asserting that reason evolved to win arguments, not seek truth.

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena.

April 28, 2011, 5:47 pm

Keynes vs. Hayek: A Rap Battle Renewed


Round 2 of the great economics smackdown is now available on video. In the impressively produced rap video “Fight of the Century” by the economist Russ Roberts and the producer and director John Papola, Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes square off to argue over such questions as whether the government should spent less or more, the source of prosperity, and whether war or natural disasters be a blessing in disguise. (Part 1 came out last year.)

In the latest installment, Keynes raps:

It’s just like an engine that’s stalled and gone dark
To bring it to life, we need a quick spark
Spending’s the life blood that gets the flow going
Where it goes doesn’t matter, just get spending flowing

And Hayek responds:

You see slack in some sectors as a “general glut”
But some sectors are healthy, and some in a rut
So spending’s not free – that’s the heart of the matter
Too much is wasted as cronies get fatter.

Will there be a Round 3? In a conversation about the project, Mr. Roberts, an economist at George Mason University, didn’t rule it out.

Q. Where did the idea for the video come?

Mr. Roberts: John Papola, the filmmaker who works with me on these, approached me about two and a half years ago and said ‘Let’s do a video together.” He heard my podcasts and is an economics geek. I said “What for?” But then we talked about it.
Read more…

April 27, 2011, 5:58 pm

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Author Repudiates Journalist’s Memoir About Her


Harper Lee, the tight-lipped author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” issued a short statement through her sister’s law firm on Wednesday saying that she had nothing to do with a forthcoming book written about her by a former Chicago Tribune reporter.

US writer Harper Lee during Medal of Freedom c...

Image via Wikipedia

On Tuesday, Penguin Press announced that it had acquired “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee,” a memoir by the former reporter Marja Mills that was “written with direct access to Harper and Alice Lee and their friends and family.”

Penguin’s announcement said: “The story of Mills’s friendship with the two women recounts all the Lee sisters have to say about their life in Alabama, their upbringing, how ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ impacted their lives, and why Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.”

One day later, the law firm, Barnett, Bugg, Lee & Carter in Monroeville, Alabama, issued the statement. Signed by Harper Lee, it said: “Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false.”

A receptionist at the law firm said on Wednesday that no one there had anything further to say on the subject. In an interview late Wednesday, Miriam Altshuler, Ms. Mills’s literary agent, said that Ms. Mills “has the written support of Alice Lee and a lifelong family friend, and prior to Harper Lee’s stroke in 2007, she had the verbal support of Harper Lee.”

Ms. Mills wrote a long article for the Chicago Tribune in 2002 on Harper Lee. While Ms. Lee declined to comment for the piece, Ms. Mills wrote that “over the past year, through extensive reporting and rare interviews with Harper Lee’s older sister, Alice Finch Lee, and some of Harper Lee’s close friends, all of whom granted unprecedented access to the details of the author’s life, a portrait of a remarkable woman emerged.”

Harper Lee, whose book is frequently included in lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century, never wrote another and has not given a public interview in 45 years.

Technology Advances; Humans Supersize

Published: April 26, 2011

For nearly three decades, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert W. Fogel and a small clutch of colleagues have assiduously researched what the size and shape of the human body say about economic and social changes throughout history, and vice versa. Their research has spawned not only a new branch of historical study but also a provocative theory that technology has sped human evolution in an unprecedented way during the past century.

Sally Ryan for The New York Times

Robert W. Fogel


Next month Cambridge University Press will publish the capstone of this inquiry, “The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World Since 1700,” just a few weeks shy of Mr. Fogel’s 85th birthday. The book, which sums up the workof dozens of researchers on one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in economic history, is sure to renew debates over Mr. Fogel’s groundbreaking theories about what some regard as the most significant development in humanity’s long history.Mr. Fogel and his co-authors, Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris and Sok Chul Hong, maintain that “in most if not quite all parts of the world, the size, shape and longevity of the human body have changed more substantially, and much more rapidly, during the past three centuries than over many previous millennia.” What’s more, they write, this alteration has come about within a time frame that is “minutely short by the standards of Darwinian evolution.”

“The rate of technological and human physiological change in the 20th century has been remarkable,” Mr. Fogel said in an telephone interview from Chicago, where he is the director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago’s business school. “Beyond that, a synergy between the improved technology and physiology is more than the simple addition of the two.”

This “technophysio evolution,” powered by advances in food production and public health, has so outpaced traditional evolution, the authors argue, that people today stand apart not just from every other species, but from all previous generations of Homo sapiens as well.


2 responses to “N.Y. Times Articles

  1. I just read what you wrote about financial crowd-sourcing and thought you should see this.

    If this person’s story is true it would be the most incredible Kickstarter story ever; not for the project but for all the remarkable and inconceivable misfortune that this person had to overcome directly before and during the founding of his project. A real life Forrest Gump type of story.

    Here you have a man “with such a severe combination of dyslexia and spatial dysgraphia that he can’t even write words down correctly as he looks at them” who nonetheless is an incredibly talented graphic designer and who after seventeen years “has created what just might be the most ambitious and innovative font ever devised.” Who starts a Kickstarter project to give the font away only to have his remarkably intelligent six year old, who is perfectly normal, be placed in a hospital mental ward. Both he and his wife lose their work as a result of trying to get their child out and the family ends up with $3 and less than week before becoming homeless. To add insult to injury, in the middle of all this Kickstarter disabled his ability to access his project yet continued to collect money for it. Despite all this and much more which I have not noted, the project was successfully funded and the most remarkable part is that the project creator claims to have a “forth coming revolutionary project” that “will have incredible mass appeal, enact substantive societal good and may even profoundly impact an industry” I do not know if that is true but he puts his personal phone number out there for anyone to call.


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