Scandals are no stranger in the art world. Theft, property damage, and fraud have occurred throughout history, as artwork represents cultural context to each artist, their time periods, and the socio-political, religious, and economic states of the world. The past six months have been filled with several cases of scandals in the art world. While nothing can really shock us anymore, here are a few recent events that have jolted the art community and left us scratching our heads.
I.Mona Lisa cake vandal
On Sunday May 29th, 2022, at the Louvre, a 36-year-old man disguised as an elderly woman attempted to vandalize Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" in an alleged climate change protest. The man who sought to deface what is arguably the world’s most famous piece of all time wore a wig and entered the museum in a wheelchair. According to a spokesperson who spoke to CNN, visitors in wheelchairs have priority viewing of the artwork, and can navigate to the front of the crowds to better see the displayed art. Isn't it ironic that someone championing as an activist egregiously abused a policy in place that allows the disadvantaged a place in the Louvre? The disguised man proceeded to throw a piece of cake at the “Mona Lisa”, though its bulletproof glass case thankfully left the work of art protected and without damage. The instigator has been arrested and is in psychiatric treatment at a Parisian police center. The Louvre filed a complaint for "the attempt of damaging a cultural property."
II.Wanted couple for attempted theft of Basquiat print
An attempted heist of a $45,000 Jean-Michel Basquiat print occurred on Saturday, May 14th, 2022, at a private viewing room of Manhattan’s Taglialatella Gallery. A man and woman entered the Chelsea-located viewing room and blatantly picked up the framed “Dog Leg Study” screen print before being stopped by a gallery attendant. Taglialatella Galleries owner Brian Swarts told Hyperallergic, “Luckily my staff is quite attentive and courageous and one of the brave young women who work here literally pulled the piece from the guy’s hand.” The private room also functions as Swarts’ office, as security footage shows the couple looking up the details of the piece, before attempting to steal the three and a half-foot wide original Basquiat. The New York Police Department told Hyperallergic that the couple had “an unknown European accent,” and that the investigation is ongoing. The two were spotted walking near the gallery hand-in-hand.
III.Daniel Bouaziz FBI case
The Danieli Fine Art Gallery on Palm Beach, Florida’s Worth Avenue, was raided by the FBI on December 15th, 2021. It is confirmed that the gallery owner, Daniel Bouaziz, sold fake Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Banksy pieces. Bouaziz allegedly bought cheap versions of the work online, and listed them for millions of dollars, including a “Basquiat” piece he bought for $495 and was listed for $12 million. The work has been confirmed as fake, and it was a part of other imitations, including a flipped fake of a $22 million Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Bouaziz went in front of a federal judge on May 30th, 2022, for selling the imitation works for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars, while knowing they were fake and posing them as authentic. The gallery owner has been charged with money laundering, mail fraud, and wire fraud. According to the Palm Beach Daily News, the gallery reopened on Friday.