Apollo Magazine

Russian billionaire and Swiss art dealer finally settle nine-year legal dispute

Plus: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts restitutes 44 antiquities | Jesse Darling wins the Turner Prize | and more art news

Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2019. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP via Getty Images

The Russian oligarch, businessman and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev and the Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier have reached an out-of-court settlement, bringing an end to a legal dispute that has lasted nearly nine years. In 2015, Rybolovlev accused Bouvier of overinflating the value of 38 artworks which he bought for a total $2bn between 2003 and 2014, subsequently bringing criminal cases in France, Monaco and Switzerland. Bouvier has always denied any wrongdoing. On Thursday (7 November), the public prosecutor in Geneva announced the closure of the last case outstanding against Bouvier.

Jesse Darling is the winner of this year’s Turner Prize. The artist won critics’ praise for the riotous atmosphere of his presentation at the Towner Eastbourne (until 14 April 2024), in which anthropomorphic versions of everyday objects – security barriers, hazard tape, net curtains, Union Jacks – appear to be rollicking drunkenly. Alex Farquharson, chair of the jury and director of Tate Britain, described Darling’s presentation as a ‘state of a nation’ address that has a ‘timeliness, dynamism and a boldness that was really grappling with the world […] and there’s a lot of humour in the work’. ‘Everywhere you look, emblems of control are bastardised and made pathetic,’ wrote Robert Barry in his review of the Turner Prize exhibition for Apollo 

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is returning 44 antiquities from its collection to Italy, Egypt and Turkey, after it was presented with what it called ‘irrefutable evidence’ that the artefacts in question had been stolen, looted or trafficked. The news comes after a six-month inquiry into 61 objects in the VMFA’s collection, led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the US Department of Homeland Security. The items entered the collection during the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s. No evidence was found to link current staff to criminal activity related to the items. Earlier this week, the Manhattan DA’s office was also responsible for the restitution of four antiquities, together worth $1m, to Nepal. These included two 16th-century bronze masks that were recovered from the collections of the Rubin Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art earlier this year.  

The board of the Fondation Custodia in Paris has appointed Stijn Alsteens as director. Alsteens, who takes up the post in the spring, is currently head of Old Master drawings at Christie’s, before which he worked for a decade as a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He replaces Ger Luijten, who died suddenly in December 2022 after 12 years at the helm, during which he was widely credited for making the collection of the foundation – shaped by the 19th-century connoisseur of Dutch works on paper, Frits Lugt – accessible to a wider audience.

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