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The Headlines

CRIMINAL CONFESSION. The suspect in the murder of New York dealer Brent Sikkema confessed to a “crime of command.” Alejandro Triana Prevez, a 30-year-old Cuban national, was arrested soon after Sikkema, 75, was found dead with stab wounds in his Rio de Janeiro apartment. In an interview with O Globo newspaper, Prevez’s lawyer, Greg Andrade, said his client had admitted to the crime, but claimed someone else masterminded it. Prevez is cooperating with the investigation. “He has a lot to say. This story is much more complicated than we can even imagine,” Andrade told Artnet News. Prevez is not a “consummate criminal,” he added. Police are reportedly investigating whether Prevez had a relationship with Sikkema’s ex-husband.

Related Articles

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23: The exterior of the British Museum on August 23, 2023, in London, England. British Museum officials launched an investigation into the theft of artefacts after discovering that stolen items, comprising gold jewelry, semiprecious stones, and glass valued at up to £50,000, were being offered on eBay for as little as £40.  (Photo Leon Neal/Getty Images)

British Museum to Exhibit Stolen Gems, Artemisia Gentileschi Show Slammed, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Legal Saga Proceeds, and More: Morning Links for February 2, 2024

Centre Pompidou and Staff Reach Agreement, Ending Three-Month Strike

GIVE BACK MY SLIPPERS. On Monday, Terry Martin, 76, was sentenced to one year of supervised release for stealing Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota in 2005. Martin thought they were made of real rubies, and said he planned to remove and sell the rubies individually, but that his hopes were dashed when another illicit jewelry dealer said the stones were made of glass. Martin pleaded guilty in October to theft of a major artwork and has been ordered to pay $23,500 to the museum, but has avoided incarceration because he is hospice care. The slippers, which were recovered in 2018, have an estimated market value of $3.5 million and are one of four surviving pairs used in The Wizard of Oz.

The Digest

Saudi authorities arrested Amr al-Madani, the CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, on charges of “abuse of authority and money laundering.” The news is a blow to Saudi Arabia, which is in the process of fashioning AlUla into an international arts and tourist destination, as part of the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” plan. [ARTnews]

Following France, Belgium is the latest European country facing a possible art sales tax increase to 21 percent, due to a new E.U.-wide directive. Professionals told L’Echo they were worried that Belgium’s art market was threatened by the potential hike, which could raise the cost of selling art in the country. Currently, primary art sales have a 6 percent VAT, but government officials are discussing eliminating a special “margin system” for reselling works, which limits VAT to 21 percent of sale profits only. [L’Echo] 

The three-month strike at the Centre Pompidou has come to an end following an agreement with two major unions and the institution. France’s controversial new minister, Rachida Dati, is getting much of the credit for brokering the accord, but three out of five cultural unions were left out of the talks, and are now criticizing Dati’s tactics. [Le Quotidien de l’Art and ARTnews]

Despite a challenging global market, Sotheby’s announced $7.9 billion in sales last year. Private sales grew by 7.9 percent, and luxury goods helped the auction house reach its total, which is an 0.8 percent drop from its record $8 billion in 2022. In a shift, Gen X and Millennials accounted for 87 percent of certain luxury item sales, while also showing strong interest in fine art. [The Guardian and The Art Newspaper]

Alice Mackler, an artist whose piquantly fashioned ceramics caught the attention of prominent New York critics in the final stages of her career, died on Sunday at 92 in a Brooklyn hospice. Her New York gallery, Kerry Schuss, said she had died of Covid-related complications. [ARTnews]

The Kicker

CLOSING ACCUSATIONS. Lawyers for Dmitry Rybolovlev’s Accent Delight International and Sotheby’s made their dramatic closing statements Monday, in a case whose decision could majorly impact how dealers and auction houses do business, writes ARTnews Senior Writer Daniel Cassady. Rybolovlev’s attorney, Zoe Salzman , argued that Sotheby’s and the art market at large foster an overall culture of greed—that the turns a blind eye to immoral practices and prizes money “over principal, over truth, over their brand.” However, defense attorney Marcus Asner countered that the only thing proven to date was that Rybolovlev foolishly relied on Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, the man legally contracted as Sotheby’s client. “We are only here because Dmitry Rybolovlev wants someone to blame,” Asner told the jury.