Apollo Magazine

British Museum sacks staff member accused of stealing from collections

Plus: the gallerist Angela Flowers has died at the age of 90 and the Orlando Museum of Art is suing its former director over an alleged scheme to sell forged Basquiats

The entrance to the British Museum. Photo: archipix/Alamy Stock Photo

The British Museum confirmed that a member of staff has been dismissed, after it emerged this week that a number of artefacts from the museum’s collection were ‘missing, stolen or damaged’. The artefacts included jewellery, gemstones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century; none had been on recent display, but they are collectively believed to be worth tens of millions. On Thursday, a report in the Daily Telegraph alleged that Peter Higgs – a curator employed by the museum for 30 years, most recently as head of department for Greece and Rome – is suspected of removing uncategorised items from the collection before selling them on eBay, with the first items (according to the Telegraph) appearing online in 2016. The British Museum has yet to confirm the identity of the staff member it has dismissed, while Higgs’s family have said that his name has been ‘dragged through the mud’, and that ‘It couldn’t have been him’. The museum launched an independent review of security on Wednesday and stated that it would be taking legal action. The Art Newspaper reports that it has implemented ‘emergency security measures’ regarding the collection.

The gallerist Angela Flowers has died at the age of 90. In 1970, Flowers launched her eponymous gallery in a London attic loaned to her rent-free by the Artists’ International Association. Here Flowers built a reputation for supporting younger British artists and the work of those she believed to be under-appreciated: ‘I would only show living artists; and nothing pre-1952.’ In 1988 Flowers Gallery opened an outpost in east London, and in 1998, expanded into the United States with a space in Los Angeles and, later, another New York. To mark the 50th anniversary of Flowers Gallery in 2020, a new venue opened in Hong Kong. The gallerist’s stable is noted for its loyalty: artists including Derek Hirst, Nicola Hicks and Tom Phillips have been represented by Flowers for more than 30 years. Flowers Gallery has been managed by Angela’s son, Matthew Flowers, since he became its managing director in 1989.

The Orlando Museum of Art (OMA) has filed a lawsuit against its former director regarding 25 forged paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Aaron De Groft is accused of attempting to profit from the sale of forgeries that were exhibited at the Florida museum in February 2022, which was raided by the FBI in June that year. OMA alleges that De Groft mounted the exhibition ‘Heroes & Monsters: Jean-Michel Basquiat’ to raise the value of the forged works. The New York Times reports that the lawsuit also names five co-owners of the paintings for allegedly promising De Groft ‘a significant cut of the proceeds’ from their eventual sale. OMA is seeking damages for fraud, conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.

Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn will part ways with LGDR this autumn, as announced in a letter circulated by the gallery this morning – and reported by Artnews. Rohatyn will re-establish Salon 94, the space she founded in 2003 and ran until the high-profile amalgamation, in 2021, of Lévy Gorvy, Salon 94 and Amelia Dayan into the LGDR consortium, now to be known as Lévy Gorvy Dayan. Salon 94 will reopen at its old Manhattan premises in October; the following month, the now-separate galleries will present a joint exhibition of work by the painter Jenna Gribbon.

Exit mobile version