Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bowland's response to the NPG

Apparently the National Portrait Gallery has officially finally contacted Margaret Bowland on the saga of her stolen painting. Bowland's response to the NPG encapsulates the whole saga:

Mr. Earhart:

After reading the documents you faxed to my husband I have to admit that I understand NPG's legal position.

There are, however a few things I need to say on my behalf.

All the communication to me from the NPG about shipping the painting at the close of the show was sent to an AOL email account that I have not used for over a year. This despite my having communicated several times with various members of the NPG staff using my new, gmail address. It is also hard to understand why if I did not respond to an email someone did not bother to telephone me. My telephone number is on the Loan Agreement, and I have an answering machine.

As you mention in your letter to my husband, I had a telephone call with a member of the NPG staff after the credit line mentioning the Klaudia Marr Gallery had been agreed on. In this telephone call I told the NPG staffer that I had broken my relationship to the Marr Gallery because they had failed to pay me for work of mine they had displayed and sold to collectors, I stated clearly that I was the sole owner of the Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna, and that the picture should be returned to me. When I saw that the credit line on the painting at the exhibit and in the catalogue ommitted any mention of the Klaudia Marr Gallery I assumed that the telephone call had been sufficient notice to return the painting to me, the acknowledged owner.

You say you first became aware of this situation on September 23, 2010. I was not sent a copy of the Loan Agreement explaining NPG's position until yesterday, October 6. Had I gotten that information sooner, my reaction to the whole mess would have been a little different.

My reaction would also have been different had someone from the NPG called me on the telephone at any time between September 23 and now. I asked, in fact begged, via emails, for someone from the NPG to telephone me and explain what had happened. No one called, and the emails I did get just put me off and referred to a loan agreement, which I only got yesterday.

I understand now that you are protected by legal documents. The fact remains, however, that a collector in Santa Fe now has possession of the painting, Klaudia Marr has received a substantial amount of money for it, and I -- the rightful owner and creator of the painting -- have nothing to show for my efforts.

The painting was an important part of the portrait competition exhibition and has become associated with the NPG. It was awarded a commendation as one of the finalists and was a favorite among viewers. It won the People's Choice Award by
popular vote. My talk in front of the painting at the NPG during the exhibition was recorded and has been circulated on Youtube.

I would have thought that the NPG would have helped me get the painting back. Instead, you have spent all your energy fending me off and protecting
Once again I ask the question: Since the NPG was the unwilling participant in an alleged scam to defraud the artist, why are they not assisting the victims (both the NPG and the artist) in dealing with Law Enforcement?

A federally funded museum has been allegedly conned by an art dealer into assisting in the alleged theft of a work of art which had been on exhibit at the museum and all they (the NPG) is doing is apparently circling the wagons to remove themselves from the issue?

I ask the question once again and hope the NPG sends me an answer: Why are they not picking up the phone and calling the FBI's Art Theft Unit?

Update: Kriston Capps has dug some new info on this subject. Read the comments section to read it.

Update 2:
Margaret Bowland has sent in a response to Kriston Capp's (11:06 am in the comments section). However, because it exceeds the max number of characters allowed in the comments form, it is being posted here:
Well, Lenny, yes there was a check made out to me for Murakami wedding. Three years ago. The check was for 2,000 dollars against a bill for 21000 dollars that I was due. So far I agree with Mr. Capps.

I told him the rest of this story, but it seemed not to have mattered to him, but here it is.

At the time Marr sent me this paltry check, three years ago, other artists in the gallery were alerting me to the fact that her gallery was falling apart, people were not getting paid. In the gallery world, the artist assumes shipping payments to a gallery and the gallery must pay to have unsold work returned. This is very expensive, as you can well imagine, to ship large works from NY to Santa Fe. MARR had the consignment to sell my work for the duration of a one month long group show. Listening to the people around me I called her and requested that my work be returned to me. She refused.

So at the urging of friends I sent a shipper in at my own expense, 1800 dollars to retrieve my work. At this point, I stupidly sighed a sigh of relief because the Murakami painting was (I thought) safely in the hands of the NPG.

The shippers had a list of the works they were to retrieve for me. On the day they arrived there was a painting missing. I asked to speak to Klaudia on the phone. In a flustered voice, she said, "Oh yes, didn't I tell you, the "Bride Painting" sold to a South African woman. It has already been shipped out of the country."

Of course, I was furious, but I was afraid as well. I just wanted to get away from this woman. My half of the painting, pastel "the Bride" that she had sold was to have been 3500 dollars. I said to her on the phone, "Klaudia, I have no way of trusting you anymore. I am considering the last 2000 dollars I have just received from you to be the end of our relationship. I am going to count it toward the Bride Pastel for which you still owe me 1500. This is the last of our relationship."

And I repeated to her, that the 2000 dollars would go toward the "Bride picture" and "the Murakami was free and clear." I also said that she was free to send me full payment for any of the works and then there would be new grounds for discussion. She said nothing to this, accepted it. Needless to say I never talked to her again until she called me two weeks ago hysterical and teary.

And I have never received another dollar from this woman. Right now if you add the shipping bill she was supposed to pay me, the rest of "The Bride Pastel" and "The Portrait of Kenyetta and Bryanna" that she stole, the bill comes to 24,300 dollars. That is a huge amount of money to me.

Sadly, I felt this was the worst damage she could do me and walked away believing the Murakami painting was mine to sell. If indeed this is or was a legitimate sale why in two years has Ms. Marr made no attempt to send me the balance she owes me of 19 thousand dollars?

I had thought that I would not be bothered by this woman for the rest of my life. I had been told that she had disbanded her gallery and to escape hundreds of creditors she had disappeared and I felt, good riddance.

All of this was explained at length to Ms. LaPorta (or LaRosa?) Ms. De Rosa from the NPG in the telephone conversations I had with her before the show ever opened.

She then went on to list my name as the owner of the painting. And my name only.

So what have I done wrong here? I will admit that oddly and tragically my belief that I was on a friendly basis with the staff at the NPG worked against me terribly.

If I had not been in constant contact with these folks by email and by phone, then perhaps I would have contacted the museum when the show was winding down to make sure my paper work was in order. It just never occurred to me for a moment. They had sent me many things by mail, talked to me by phone and the email. I had no idea that the people in registrar were unaware of what was known by the people at the head of their organization and that when confronted with what looked odd, an email address that had not been used in over two years, that the registrar wouldn't have picked her head up, made a phone call, asked a question.

This whole thing was going on while I was on vacation in Holland. Just two weeks that shall prove to be the costliest two weeks of my life. When I arrived home there were many messages on my telephone but none from the NPG. Certainly I would have called immediately.

Mr. Capps concludes that the NPG did nothing illegal. It does appear that while I thought they were trying to retrieve my painting they were doing just that, making sure there legal affairs were in order so that the mighty organization could protect itself from a penniless painter. It seems they did a very good job.

But I shall ask this of you Mr. Capps? Is this right? What have I done to deserve being left without a painting or the money to pay for it? I trusted a major government agency to recognize the ownership of my work and to return it to me. They had my address every single moment. What was so hard about sending it home? And if they could not reach me for two weeks, where was the fire? The place is vast.

Rather than just send my painting to an address of which I HAD NEVER approved, did not even know, couldn't you have waited until you could have talked to me, or asked someone else in your organization if they had any current information about how to reach me? I would have proceeded that way to return a hat.

All the legal work may be in order, but a thief is alive and well and doing business with dupes in NM , the NPG glides on, the huge ship of state that it is, and the artist that was used by this ship of state to mount a popular show is left drowning in its wake. If that is justice I have no comprehension of the word.

margaret bowland

Seen on Univision

Left wing nut Bolivian President Evo Morales was part of a "friendly" soccer match recently. At one point, a player from the opposing team accidentally stepped on El Presidente's foot. Minutes later Morales corners the other player and knees him in the nuts.

El Presidente avoided receiving a red card, but the other guy was ejected after being kneed in the nuts and after the game was almost arrested by Morales' security detail.