Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A late-era Rembrandt painting with a troubled past is on the market again—this time for $47 million, and The Nation reports. This figure represents a big a step up from the painting’s last sale price in 2009, when Las Vegas casino owner Steven Wynn (of Picasso-puncturing notoriety) bought the work, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, from Christie’s for a bargain $33 million with buyer’s premium, just above the work’s $29.5 million low estimate. (Though it was a steal given the estimate, which was $41.1 million on the top end, the sale still set a Rembrandt record.)

 At the time, Barbara Piasecka Johnson, the widow of the Johnson & Johnson heir, owned the painting, which she inherited from her late husband. He, in turn, had bought it via Harold Diamond, Inc., from Columbia University, for roughly $1 million in 1975 (about $4 million in today’s currency)—a fairly scandalous sale that rankled university constituents who disapproved of the institution’s decision to pad its endowment at the expense of a historic work. The painting had hung in the campus administration building stormed by students during the May 1968 occupation, and was protected by the protestors, who returned it to the police in the midst of their demonstration in order to insure its safety.

 Brandeis University drew similar criticism in 2009 for attempting to sell off the contents of its Rose Art Museum—including paintings by contemporary masters like de Kooning, Warhol, Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein—to cope with the depressed economy’s effect on its finances... more