Art Scandal that Rocked European Society
The Art Scandal that Rocked European Society – large sums aren’t new to the $64 billion global art market, and there will always be criminals trying to get a piece of it.
The case of Angela Gulbenkian’s fraud has been making the rounds in the art world since 2018. It appears to be one of the biggest art scandals so far, and one that leveraged the reputable Gulbenkian name.
It all started when Hong Kong-based art dealer Mathieu Ticolat made the public claim that Angela Gulbenkian had swindled him out of $1.4 million.
The story behind the art scandal
The story began in 2017 when Ticolat was on his usual search for art to buy and another dealer recommended he speak with Angela Gulbenkian. According to Ticolat he didn’t know of Angela in the art world but some people seemed to know of her and he established contact.
Angela claimed to have access to a 2012 Yellow Pumpkin by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The sculpture was a desirable item at the time and even more now, so this had Ticolat interested.
Angela Gulbenkian described the sculpture as 178 pounds and made of fiberglass and reinforced plastic. She said it was held in a crate in Switzerland since its creation.
The agreed sum for the sculpture was $1,375,000.
“It was attractive to buy a large yellow pumpkin at this price. She had access to the work, which I verified, so I went for it.” Ticolat said.
In April of the same year, Ticolat made the first payment of $100,000 to Angela Gulbenkian’s HSBC account.
When asked why he did this, Ticolat said it was due to, “the strong referral from a trusted friend, the need to act quickly, and the Gulbenkian Foundation’s reputation.”
On May 9, Ticolat wired the balance, $1,275,000 to Angela, and was expectant of quick delivery.
He had also asked Angela to ensure some minor scratches on the sculpture were restored before shipping the work.
At this point, “The conservator got paid, the report was done, and it was all good to go,” Ticolat said.
But suddenly delays arose, and Ticolat found himself waiting endlessly for the pumpkin.
While he waited and texted Angela severally in distress, Angela traveled across cities to places such as Lugano, Sardinia, Lisbon, Venice, Ibiza, and the Greek islands.
By December 2017, with no pumpkin and rude responses from Angela, Ticolat reached out to former artist and lawyer, Chris Marinello.
“I haven’t met you,” Marinello told Ticolat upon contact, “But I am telling you, this is fraud.
You don’t treat a customer that pays $1 million for a sculpture like garbage.”
It turned out Marinello was right when the agent for the true owner of the pumpkin confirmed never receiving such payment and that the sculpture was long sold to an anonymous buyer.
It was then Ticolat realized his situation and began legal action against Angela Gulbenkian.
Soon other victims came forward too, and though Angela tried to evade arrest a few times, the Portuguese authorities finally arrested her.
Angela Gulbenkian was held in a women’s prison in Portugal and extradited later to the UK in December to await her trial set for early 2021.
Read more from I On The Scene: HERE.