Michael Steinhardt, Billionaire Collector, Surrender of Favorites – ARTnews.com

Michael Steinhardt, a billionaire New York financier and relic collector, turned over 180 stolen items worth $70 million and received an unprecedented lifetime ban on future acquisitions, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Steinhardt agreed to forfeiture after a four-year investigation determined that the items seized had been looted and illegally smuggled out of 11 countries in an international human trafficking operation. The works have finally appeared on the art market without proof of provenance.

“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed an intense lust for looted antiquities with no regard for the legitimacy of his actions, the legitimacy of the items he bought and sold. , or the unfortunate cultural harm he has caused globally,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to display and sale knows no geographical or ethical boundaries, as reflected in the vast underworld of antique dealers, crime bosses, money launderers and grave robbers he relies on to expand his collection.”

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The investigation into Steinhardt began in February 2017, after prosecutors determined he had purchased a statue looted from Lebanon during the country’s Civil War, and later for the Museum of Art Metropolitan borrowed. An investigation into his acquisition records only added to suspicions of a more serious offense and led to the formation of a joint investigation with investigators in 11 countries — Bulgaria, Egypt , Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Turkey.

According to investigators, the confiscated belongings that adorn Steinhardt’s properties around the world, including a ceremonial vase depicting the head of a stag, were purchased from the Merrin Gallery for 2.6 million dollars in November 1991; a bowl of gold looted from Nimrud, Iraq, and purchased undocumented, for $150,000 in July 2020, amid Islamic State looting in the Levant; three stone death masks dated to 6000 BC and purchased by Steinhardt for $400,000 in October 2007; and “Ercolano Fresco,” were purchased from accused trafficker Robert Hecht for $650,000 in November 1995.

Steinhardt will not face charges if he abides by all terms of the agreement. According to Vance, the items must be “returned promptly to their rightful owners,” rather than held as evidence. The resolution would also help prosecutors “protect the identities of many witnesses here and abroad, whose names will be revealed at any trial.”

Steinhardt’s attorney, Andrew J. Levander, said in a statement: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s years-long investigation has ended without any charges, and that items mistakenly taken by others will be returned to their home countries. Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt purchased these items specified the merchant’s legal title to the items and their alleged origin. To the extent these statements are untrue, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his right to demand restitution from the relevant dealer. “

Steinhardt has one of the most important collections of antiquities in the world. He also holds works by Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne, among others. A gallery in the Ancient Greek art wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is named for him and his wife, Judy, as is a conservatory at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

His records with prosecutors on suspected antique dealings date back to the 1990s. In 1997, a federal judge ruled that a gold bowl was purchased by Steinhardt for $1 million. dollars were imported illegally. The court rejected his claim that he was the “innocent owner” without knowledge of its illegal origin.

“The faithful identification of Italy on customs forms will prompt Customs to notify that an antique, dating back to 450 BC, is being exported from a country with strict antiquities laws. ‘, the judge ruled at the time.

In 2017, investigators seized a marble statue looted from a temple in Sidon, Lebanon, spurring the formation of the multinational human trafficking unit. The following year, his office and Manhattan home were raided, and several antiquities looted from Greece and Italy were confiscated.

According to authorities, the unit has recovered more than 3,000 items worth $200 million and more than 1,500 items have been returned to their owners. Hundreds of people are ready to be repatriated “as soon as the countries concerned can receive them amid the pandemic,” and more than 1,000 artifacts are being held pending criminal proceedings against traffickers. accused.

https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/michael-steinhardt-surrenders-looted-artifacts-1234612558/ Michael Steinhardt, Billionaire Collector, Surrender of Favorites – ARTnews.com

Yasmin Harisha

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