Aria Marco, Rachel Smiley and Freya Yost
Picture it, 1985, the upper east side of Manhattan. On a clear day, a truck pulls up outside the town house of Imelda Marcos, First Lady of the Philippines. As crates are loaded into the truck, a Monet painting goes missing, not to resurface for nearly 3 decades.
Flash forward to the present day: Downtown, in a Manhattan courthouse, the former secretary of Imelda Marcos, Vilma Bautista, and her two nephews, are being tried for conspiracy and tax fraud for the sale of Monet’s “Japanese Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny”.
How did they get here? In 1985, following the overthrow of the Marcos government in the Philippines, all the artwork and artifacts which had adorned Imelda Marcos’ Upper East Side townhouse were packed up and removed. The whereabouts of many of these works remained unknown until 2010, when investigators finally caught a break. A Monet resurfaced in a London art gallery, sold by an indebted Bautista.
According to Bautista, the First Lady gifted her the painting. She kept it for 20 to 30 years, until a 2009 debt crisis forced her to sell it.
The painting’s next stop was a London art gallery, where it was subsequently sold for $43 million. A small portion, $5 million, was allegedly transferred to the Marcos family, although there is no proof. Now the Philippines government wants it back, but they are not the only one with a claim to the painting. Alan Howard, a British hedge fund manager, purchased the painting in 2010 from the gallery under the impression that the sale was legitimate, and he wants the painting returned.
Back in New York, a tangled legal battle rages on. But is Bautista just the victim of Imelda's treachery? Could Imelda have purposely left the Philippines most expensive piece of art off the stolen art registry so that her secretary could covertly sell it for Imelda's own profit? This theory explains the 1991 "certificate of authority" from Imelda, to sell the painting and receive the proceeds. According to Bautista's lawyer in New York, this is the case, but she simply never got the chance to forward the money.
Update: On November 18, 2013, Vilma Bautista was convicted by a jury in New York of conspiracy and tax fraud charges. The fate and rightful ownership of the artwork is as yet undecided.
Bibliography and Credits
Ang larawang ito ay kinunan ko noong kinakapanayam ko si Gng. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos [photograph]. (2007). Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/PQm2mi
Billionaire bought ‘hot’ Imelda Marcos Monet. (2013, October 29). The Smoking Gun. Retrieved from goo.gl/1VAsNs
Clémentel, É (photographer). (circa 1917). Monet and his gardens, an amateur stereographic Autochrome [photograph], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/MViGQM
Chronister, K (photographer). (2012). Eye of London [photograph].
De Vera, J (photographer). (1986). EDSA Revolution [photograph], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/ADXLXV
Gonzalez, M (photographer). (2007). Flag of the Philippines [photograph], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/mSs1lc
Hazlitt Gooden & Fox Ltd. [photograph]. (2012). Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/rc5te5
Hodan, G (photographer). (2012). British flag in the wind [photograph], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/0EFQU5
Imelda Marcos aide found guilty of Monet painting sale. (2013, November 19). BBC World News Asia. Retrieved from goo.gl/pKmFqL
Imelda Marcos during a state visit at the White House [photograph]. (1966). Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/j6DXin
McKinley, J. (2013, October 16). Trial opens for Imelda Marcos’ ex-aide. The New York Times. Retrieved from goo.gl/KSOTBx
McKinley, J. (2013, November 18). Former Marcos aide is convicted in attempted sale of missing paintings. The New York Times. Retrieved from goo.gl/8ecvcw
McKinley, J. (2013, November 22). After conviction, focus turns to ownership of Marcos artwork. The New York Times. Retrieved from goo.gl/0C7u88
Monet, C (artist). (1897-1899). Water lilies and Japanese bridge [oil painting], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/j5mWTz
Monet, C (artist). (1907). Water lilies (Nympheas) [oil painting], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/SSr2ut
NASA (publisher). (2002, March 29). Satellite image of Philippines in March 2002 [satellite image], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/PiavCG
New York Times (publisher). (1922). Monet in garden [photograph, Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/4kUet0
Pazdan, J. (2008, April 8). The long goodbye. Retrieved from goo.gl/P1ToAV
Thelmadatter (photographer). (2011, August 1). Crates with items for the Hidalgo crafts expo [photograph], Retrieved November 25, 2013, from: goo.gl/Jjhq5c