Friday 18th September 2015Secret Nazi Treasure Train Discovered?
It seems like a story out of an Indiana Jones adventure, rather that a story that belongs here on an art blog - but for some lucky posts, those two ideas can blend together into something that barely sounds real. Authorities aren't entirely certain it is true, as the story is still unfolding, but regardless it's a tale worth telling. It's not quite a new one, as it seems impossible for more than a couple of months to go by without a new artistic treasure trove being discovered somewhere in the world.
This latest trove has supposedly been found in Poland, and has already inspired a wild series of speculations about what might be contained within it - but nobody has any idea for certain. The find was discovered by two anonymous tipsters who are claiming that it is a World War II era train stuffed to the brim with valuable art, gold, and jewels.
"In the documents they sent us, they inform us that they have found a military train from the second World War and that outside the train some guns and weapons can be seen," confirmed Marika Tokarska, a local municipal official. "They also said there could be gold and some other precious things inside."
The real issue comes from the fact that the two tipsters won't share the location of their fund until they are guaranteed a 10% finder's fee for revealing the location. Under Polish law, any discovered weapons must be immediately reported to the police, which puts the two men in a sticky position as they're unwilling to do this. The authorities are also concerned that there may be some serious danger in the train as well, especially if it's as loaded with valuables as the tipsters claim. Considering the military nature of the train, it's quite possible that the train has been mined to prevent tampering, or that methane gases have built up in the abandoned tunnels, ready to be triggered by a simple static spark.
With every new treasure trove that's discovered, whether they're verified or merely speculative, it's a reminder of how devastating war and greed can be to all aspects of life. Not just the human cost of suffering, but the damage being done to humanity's cultural legacy.
Posted on September 18th 2015 on 01:11am
Friday 24th July 2015The Lost Painting Bulletin Board
It's almost a staple of daytime television, and the bread and butter of shows like Antiques Roadshow, among others: Joe or Jane Average discovers that the coffee table they've been using for years is actual an heirloom piece from a famous furniture designer, or the candlesticks they inherited from their mother were once owned by some member of the English royal family, and is worth quite a pretty penny. Typically, finding something with a valuations in the thousands is remarkably rare, and finding something even more valuable almost never happens. So imagine the shock of a Bonham's auction house art appraiser who was making a routine examination of a client's collection when she stopped in the kitchen, and spotted a painting being used as a bulletin board - one that turned out to be worth an estimated $1.5 million dollars!
The piece, 'Arab in Black' by prominent South African artist Irma Stern, is not just a remarkably valuable piece of art, however. Back in the 1950 in South Africa, Nelson Mandela had been arrested for high treason, an offense which carried the death penalty. Though he was eventually completely cleared, the cost of maintaining a legal defense for such a high profile charge is naturally commensurately high, and Stern donated the painting to an auction designed to raise money to help pay for his legal counsel costs. The buyer at that auction eventually moved to the UK and settled down, and gave it to the current owner (who wishes to remain nameless).
The auction house is naturally trying to make some publicity hay with this element of the story, billing it as the painting that saved Mandela's life, which is something of an exaggeration. Nevertheless, as in all of these hidden treasure stories, the value of the piece is only ever enhanced by the history and provenance of the piece - and who knows, maybe they're even correct! It will be sold this September in London.
Hannah O'Leary, the Bonham's appraiser who discovered the painting, explained, “I spotted this masterpiece hanging in the kitchen covered in letters, postcards, and bills. It was a hugely exciting find even before I learned of its political significance.” Maybe it's time to go through all your items that you take for granted around your home - you never know what kind of masterpiece might be turned up by re-examining things in a new light!
Posted on July 24th 2015 on 08:45pm