A German art collector and socialite accused of stealing a £ 1million sculpture has been remanded in custody following her extradition from Portugal.
Angela Gulbenkian is said to have pocketed some £ 1,143,656.25 in payment for Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Kusama Pumpkin’, but never returned the item to the buyer.
The 38-year-old woman was extradited to the UK from Portugal and appeared before Southwark Crown Court, where she denied the theft.
Angela Gulbenkian pictured outside London courthouse in August
Gulbenkian reportedly pocketed some £ 1,143,656.25 in payment for Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Kusama Pumpkin’, but never returned the item to the buyer.
Who was Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian?
Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian
Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869-1955) was an Armenian-born businessman, art collector and philanthropist, born in the Ottoman Empire.
Gulbenkian played a decisive role in the first half of the twentieth century as mediator of the international negotiations which led to the exploitation of the unusually rich oil fields of Al-Jazeera (Iraq).
Throughout his life he has built an eclectic and unique collection, influenced by his travels and personal tastes.
Gulbenkian took British nationality in 1902 and died in 1955, in Lisbon.
Source: Gulbenkian Foundation
In 2017, a Hong-King art company, Art Incorporated, owned by Mathieu Ticolat, claimed to have paid Gulbenkian more than $ 1.3 million for the sculpture but never received it.
Art Incorporated filed a civil action that resulted in a worldwide freeze on Gulbenkian’s assets.
Gulbenkian, who denies two charges of theft of Art Incorporated, between April 9, 2017 and December 17, 2018, has been in detention since his arrest in Portugal in June.
Although she challenged her extradition to the UK in the Portuguese Supreme Court of Justice, she was flown back to the UK.
She appeared briefly in Southwark Crown Court and was remanded in custody ahead of a plea and pre-trial hearing on January 13 next year.
Gulbenkian grew up in Munich and married the great-grandnephew of oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian, whose fortune funded a multibillion pound foundation and a Lisbon museum.
The Gulbenkians are considered one of the wealthiest and most renowned art collecting families in Europe.
Gulbenkian herself has been heavily involved in the continental art world, marketing herself as a high-end broker.
World famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, born in Japan in 1929, is known as “the queen of peas”.
She has met and inspired important artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell.
She is also renowned for being one of the original artists involved in the pop art and minimalism movements.
Much of his work centers around pumpkins, and his yellow pumpkin carving has become one of his iconic masterpieces.
Who is Yayoi Kusama?
World-renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (pictured in 2017) is one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people
World-renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, known as “the queen of peas,” has been named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
Kusama, 88, is known for her use of bright colors in her artwork which often depicts polka dots and spotted pumpkins.
She often appears in a wheelchair and sporting her trademark red wig.
Born in 1929 in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, Kusama suffered psychological trauma from quarrels between her parents and was already drawing dots and nets in her childhood based on her hallucinatory experiences.
After moving to the United States in 1957 at the age of 28, Kusama became a staple of the Pop and Minimalism art movements of the 1960s.
Kusama’s yellow pumpkin
During a 16-year stay in New York, she staged “happenings” at the height of the sexual liberation movement where people stripped naked and had their bodies painted in polka dots on Wall Street or Central Park.
By the time Kusama returned to Japan in 1973, she was exhausted and voluntarily placed in a psychiatric ward where she has lived ever since.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that Kusama was “rediscovered”.
Her commercial success was highlighted when she collaborated with Louis Vuitton in 2012 and she was named the world’s most popular artist in 2014 by the Art Newspaper.