Idiots Retreat

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at080219d.jpgLast week I talked about the theft of four priceless artworks from the Bührle Museum in Zurich and wondered what the hell the idiot burglars were planning to do with the stolen French paintings, so famous as to be virtually unsellable. Here is the latest about the idiots and their heist. A friend in Zurich sent me an email with the good news that two of the paintings –- by Van Gogh and Claude Monet –- had been found just half a kilometer from the museum in the parking lot of a psychiatric hospital, in the back seat of an abandoned car.

at080219b.jpgThe other two paintings – by Degas and Cezanne – are still missing. Let's hope that it's a matter of weeks instead of years before they reappear. After all, it took fifty years before another famous Degas painting, Place de la Concorde, missing since WWII, resurfaced at the Hermitage Museum in Russia. Oddly enough, these two Degas paintings, stolen fifty years apart, have much in common: they depict the same characters, Count Lepic and his two young daughters. It's probably just coincidence, but still, one wonders.

at080219a.jpgAnd now, a public service announcement which might prevent you from losing thousands of dollars. Never, and I repeat, never buy art while vacationing. There is something that happens to us while we are 'taking it easy' – in Las Vegas, Hawaii, or on the French Riviera: our collective intelligence drops to an all-time low, and we are prone to making decisions which we are bound to regret.

at080219e.jpgUntil I recently heard on CBS' Inside Edition about the investigation into cruise-line art auctions, I never considered the luxury cruise to be among the dangerous places to buy art. Now we're learning that many cruise goers have been lured into these art auctions with the promise of a bargain and a good investment, only to discover that they were "grossly overcharged and that the same pieces were available on land for a third or less of the price they had paid." So, as they say, buyer beware. Or, as I like to advise during the Fine Art of Art Collecting seminars, the moment you hear a dealer trying to talk you into buying an artwork because it's a 'good investment,' run in the opposite direction, and run fast.

at080219c.jpg Speaking of buyer beware: in today's New York Times, David Brooks writes a column under the headline 'When the Magic Fades,' in reference to the second thoughts that some American voters are starting to have about Barack Obama and his promise of the new, after being initially swept away by his brilliance as an orator. Thinking about Barack and Hillary, both extremely worthy candidates, I cannot help perceiving the difference between them the same way I see the difference between the newest addition to LACMA, the smooth and sleek BCAM, with its collection of cutting-edge art, and the slightly dowdy Ahmanson Pavilion, the oldest building on the LACMA campus. Last month I went four times through the ground-floor galleries of the Ahmanson building, with its completely reinstalled permanent collection of 20th century art. Here, instead of being flashy, the galleries are more subdued, and the art looks its absolute best. The result is nothing short of brilliant, and that comes only with years of experience.

Swiss police announce the recovery of two of the stolen paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Photo: Nicholas Ratzenboeck/AFP/Getty Images