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French court finds Guy Wildenstein guilty of money laundering and tax fraud

10 March 2024

The French art dealer Guy Wildenstein has been found guilty of tax fraud and money laundering. The 78-year-old billionaire has been sentenced to four years in prison, though he is not expected to serve any jail time: half of his sentence will be spent under house arrest and the other half has been suspended. Wildenstein was accused of evading inheritance tax after the death of his father, the art dealer Daniel Wildenstein, in 2001; it was alleged that Guy Wildenstein and his brother Alec under-reported the value of the estate. Alec’s son, who is also named Alec, and Guy’s former sister-in-law Liouba Stoupakova have also been convicted and given suspended prison sentences. Guy Wildenstein has also been ordered to pay a fine of $1.1 million as well as hundreds of millions of euros in back taxes. So far French authorities have seized assets that are worth around €3.4 million. The litigation began in 2016, when prosecutors first accused Wildenstein of perpetrating ‘the longest and most sophisticated tax fraud’ in modern French history.

Lucas Samaras has died at the age of 87. The Greek-American artist was known for the unusual diversity of his output: across a six-decade career, his work included performance art, painting, pastels, sculpture, photography, text-based works, collage and room-sized installations. In 1996, the New York Times critic Grace Glueck wrote: ‘There appears to be not one Lucas Samaras, but several artists of that name.’ His work often explored his own body and sense of self; in a 1970 issue of Art in America, Samaras described himself as ‘my own Peeping Tom’. His interest in using himself as a subject began early, while studying art at Rutgers University, New Jersey, under Allan Kaprow and George Segal. Samaras, who emigrated from Greece to the United States with his family in 1948, represented his homeland at the Venice Biennale in 2009 with a mirror-filled presentation that included video works based on footage of himself undressing.

A tax relief measure for museums and galleries that was due to expire in 2026 has now been made permanent, it was announced in the UK government’s latest budget announcement. The Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief (MGETR), which was introduced in 2017, allows cultural institutions to claim tax relief on the costs of the planning and preparation of exhibitions. For the financial year 2024–25, the measure will provide 45 per cent tax relief for touring shows and 40 per cent for non-touring shows, with cash repayment of up to £80,000 and £100,000 respectively. So far, the MGETR has supported 6,430 exhibitions, according to the National Museum Directors’ Council.

The Society of Antiquaries is no longer at risk of being evicted from Burlington House in Piccadilly. The building, which also houses the Royal Academy of Arts, served as the headquarters for several cultural and scientific bodies including the Society of Antiquaries  and the Linnaean Society for some 150 years. Rents for the government-owned building had soared in line with market values since a change to government accounting policy in 2014; the rent paid by the Society of Antiquaries rose from £4,800 a year in 2012–13 to £150,000 a year by 2019. A condition of the new agreement is that the Learned Societies expand their outreach programmes and make a joint one-off payment to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.