New York City not likely to tax $450 million art sale

New York City not likely to tax $450 million art sale
Bidding representatives react after Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450 million during an auction at Christie’s last month in New York. (AP)
Updated 08 December 2017

New York City not likely to tax $450 million art sale

New York City not likely to tax $450 million art sale

NEW YORK: New York City collects sales tax on even the smallest items, but it probably won’t collect a cent in taxes on a nearly half-billion dollar painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
The Italian Renaissance artist’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450 million (SR1.68 billion) during a record-breaking auction at Christie’s last month to a buyer reported to be a Saudi prince. But unless he decides to hang the work in a Manhattan pied-a-terre, or ships it using the wrong type of carrier, the city won’t get any taxes.
That’s because the state’s laws are structured so that out-of-town buyers generally don’t get hit with big tax bills. If they did, New York’s status as a global center for art sales might be jeopardized, an expert said.
Christie’s declined to identify the buyer of the 500-year-old painting but media reports point to the Saudi royal family. Whoever the owner is, the painting appears headed at least temporarily to the newly opened branch of the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, the museum announced Wednesday.
The identity of the owner and ultimate destination of the artwork plays a big role in whether the sale is taxed.
If the painting of Christ raising a hand in blessing had been bought by someone who planned to keep it in New York, the buyer would be on the hook to pay an 8.875 percent city and local sales taxes, which on a $450 million purchase would amount to around $39 million said Jason Kleinman, a lawyer who advises art collectors on the tax consequences of their purchases. That probably won’t happen if the painting is shipped to the Middle East.
“We’re not supposed to tax the Saudi guy if he takes the painting outside the US,” Kleinman said. “The caveat is that New York has very particular rules about how a painting needs to be shipped out of the city. If those rules are not abided by, there will be some inadvertent sales tax.”
The painting’s buyer could be forced to pay the tax if he hired a specialized fine-art shipper to deliver the painting to him in Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi. New York state authorities say purchases by out-of-state buyers who use specialized art shippers as opposed to common freight carriers like UPS or FedEx are subject to sales tax.
Christie’s advises buyers on its website that it must collect tax on items collected by certain carriers. It also notes that buyers shipping artworks to 10 other US states also would be on the hook for sales taxes.
New York has socked art houses in the past for failing to collect sales tax.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reached a $4.28 million settlement last year with New York’s Gagosian Gallery over unpaid taxes on art sales. As part of that settlement, the gallery created its own shipping division so it could legally avoid incurring tax liability.
“We will continue to remain vigilant in order to ensure that art dealers and collectors fully abide by the state’s tax laws,” Schneiderman said at the time.
Schneiderman’s office had no comment on the sale of “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the World.”


Amy Poehler’s high-school comedy ‘Moxie’ calls out toxic masculinity

‘Moxie’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
‘Moxie’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied
Updated 07 March 2021

Amy Poehler’s high-school comedy ‘Moxie’ calls out toxic masculinity

‘Moxie’ is now streaming on Netflix. Supplied

LONDON: There were many things to love about “Parks and Recreation” – but one of the most obvious was that it starred, unusually, an eternally upbeat, yet likeable protagonist. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Amy Poehler, who played the irrepressible Leslie Knope in “Parks & Rec,” and the “cool mom” in cult classic “Mean Girls,” brings a similar positivity to Netflix high-school comedy “Moxie,” which marks her second directorial outing.

Vivian Carter (Hadley Robinson) is a smart, switched-on student who already longs to leave behind her clique-y high school for what she believes will be the more mature world of college. Vivian flies under the radar, keeping her head down and letting the inequality of high school pass her by. After all, why fight a system that can’t be changed, right?

Well, not quite. When new student Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) draws the unwanted attention of stereotypically obnoxious jock Mitchell Wilson (Patrick Schwarzenegger), something shifts for Vivian. Spurred on by her mother’s rebellious past, Vivian starts a zine – Moxie. In the pages of the guerrilla pamphlet, she calls out the toxic, chauvinistic masculinity that permeates the school, and lambasts the authorities (typified by the spineless principal Shelly, who just wants everyone to get along and not generate any paperwork). Before you know it, the Moxie movement has swept across the campus, drawing support — and no shortage of ire.

It’s a curious mix of feel-good empowerment, cutesy teen film, and stirring call-to-action. Supplied

Poehler is a gifted comic actress — and her cameo as Vivian’s mum gives her a couple of the movie’s funniest moments vv but from the director’s chair, she opts to dial back the laughs somewhat. There are some smile-inducing moments, and the movie deftly flits from teenage angst to meet-cute and back again. What’s more (and to Poehler’s credit), “Moxie” doesn’t linger on the stereotypical beats of a teen rom-com, but nor does it shy away from highlighting the darker, seedier underbelly of the high-school system in the US. It’s a curious mix of feel-good empowerment, cutesy teen film, and stirring call-to-action. Much like it’s lead character, “Moxie” is difficult to define, but easy to like.


Osama bin Laden son takes up painting

Osama bin Laden son takes up painting
Updated 06 March 2021

Osama bin Laden son takes up painting

Osama bin Laden son takes up painting
  • Omar’s works include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan
  • His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited

LONDON: Osama bin Laden’s son Omar has reportedly taken up painting as a method of coping with lockdowns introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Omar, the 39-year-old fourth son of the former Al-Qaeda leader, lives in Normandy in northern France with his wife Zaina, a painter from Cheshire in the UK.
His creations including vivid depictions of the US, a country he has never visited and against which his father waged a terrorist insurgency for many years, including the 9/11 attacks, culminating in his assassination in 2011.
Omar’s works also include landscapes of the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where his father hid from US forces for many years.
He told Vice News that he had suffered for many years with post-traumatic stress disorder, following a childhood that saw him uprooted from his family home outside Jeddah to resettle in Sudan and war-torn Afghanistan as his father pursued his campaigns.
Omar later rejected his father and left Afghanistan following his experiences of the conflict there.
“I want the world to learn that I have grown; that I am comfortable within myself for the first time in my life; that the past is the past and one must learn to live with what has gone by,” he said. “One must forgive if not forget, so that one may be at peace with one’s emotions.”


Drake shows love for Dubai’s royal family in latest track

Drake dropped a new EP over the weekend. File/Instagram
Drake dropped a new EP over the weekend. File/Instagram
Updated 06 March 2021

Drake shows love for Dubai’s royal family in latest track

Drake dropped a new EP over the weekend. File/Instagram

DUBAI: Drake’s love for Dubai is no secret. In fact, the Toronto native, who has visited the city on multiple occasions, has been quite vocal about his admiration by way of Instagram photos and song lyrics, including a line in “Free Smoke,” from his 2017 album “More Life”: “I want to move to Dubai, so I don’t never have to kick it with none of you guys.”

He also namedrops the UAE city in “Sacrifices” featuring Young Thug, in which he states “I got Dubai plates in the California state.”

The Canadian superstar also developed close friendships with UAE royals Sheikh Mansoor and Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, the sons of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The friendship continued to blossom, and the rapper has decided to give a shout out to his friends in a new track, which he dropped this weekend as part of his “Scary Hours 2” EP.

In the song “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” featuring Rick Ross, Drake refers to the Dubai princes as his family.

“And that’s facts, Hamdan Mohammed like my third cousin (Facts)/Mansoor Mohammed like my real brother (Facts)/Dubai embrace me like a Emirati (Facts),” he raps over the moody instrumental.

It’s not the first time that the Grammy award-winning artist has hinted at his ties with the royals. In a 2015 Instagram post from his visit to Dubai, he admitted to looking like Sheikh Mansoor, jokingly stating that he was his “long lost brother.”


REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life

REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life
Updated 05 March 2021

REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life

REVIEW: ‘Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell’ offers rare insight into murdered rappers life
  • Netflix documentary glosses over much, but is a must-see for hip-hop fans

LONDON: Christopher Wallace — better known the world over as The Notorious B.I.G. — would have turned 50 this year, and this intimate character portrait from director Emmett Malloy spends a lot of time reflecting on the promise and potential he had, even beyond his existing legacy and influence on the course of hip-hop history. 

“Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” was made in partnership with Wallace’s estate, so it’s no great surprise that there’s a tremendous amount of love emanating from its contributors, including Biggie’s mother and grandmother, childhood friends, Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy, who signed Biggie to his Bad Boy Records label in 1993 and released his debut album ‘Ready To Die’ the following year), music producer Mark Pitts and many others.

“Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” was made in partnership with Wallace’s estate. (Supplied)

As a result, “I Got a Story to Tell” is a far-from-impartial recounting of the rap star’s meteoric career trajectory, and huge swathes of Wallace’s life are given only a brief mention, at most, and then rarely referenced again. His rivalry with Tupac Shakur and his part in the larger East versus West Coast feud are given short shrift, for example; his marriage to Faith Evans is addressed only in archive footage; while his early relationship with rapper Lil’ Kim is totally eradicated from the story that’s told.

Malloy seeks to redress the balance somewhat by including frank discussion of some of Wallace’s less glamorous history, including his role in the Brooklyn crack-cocaine hierarchy. But it’s no surprise that far more screen time is given to extolling Biggie’s virtues than critiquing his flaws — after all, his mother serves as one of the documentary’s producers, and presumably held sway over what was covered and what was off-limits. Similarly, Combs (who is also a producer) spends far more time championing what a star Wallace was than addressing much of the controversy that has become synonymous with Biggie’s career, and his death.

There is an air of celebration about this film — and perhaps that was always the intention. Through incredible archive footage and home recordings, there’s rarely-glimpsed insight into Wallace’s talent: Seeing him battle during a legendary Brooklyn block party, or hearing his friend (and jazz musician) Donald Harrison highlight the origins of his snare-drum-like rap style is simply wonderful. “I Got a Story to Tell” may not paint the full picture, but it’s no less enthralling as a result.


Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news

Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news
Updated 04 March 2021

Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news

Winston Churchill, Angelina Jolie and an $11.5 million painting of Morocco: Exploring the fascinating story behind this week’s biggest art news

DUBAI: “Happy are the painters, for they are never alone.”

While many of us could mistake this famous quote for a comment by countless artists, you may be surprised to learn it was said by none other than  Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose passion for painting recently made headlines around the world.

Earlier this week, a painting of Marrakesh by the famed World War Two politician, who died in 1965 at the age of 90, smashed expectations and sold for a staggering $11.5 million at auction in London.

“The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque,” which was owned by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, was painted by Churchill during a wartime visit in 1943.

“The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” was painted by Churchill during a World War II visit in 1943. (AFP)

And while securing the allies victory against Nazi Germany may have been all-consuming, Churchill found snippets of time to pursue his passion for art after realizing his love for painting at 40 years old.

He was first introduced to painting during a family holiday in 1915 after his sudden fall from grace over his role in the disastrous Dardanelles naval campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Churchill, who served as the First Lord of the Admiralty during the campaign, hoped that this new skill would distract him from the ongoing strife engulfing Europe. 

For the artist-cum-politician, who completed an impressive 500 artworks, painting was a hobby; he did to unwind and gifted most of his works to friends. 

And while Churchill painted a varied array of landscapes, from quaint English country scenes to the immense cliffs near Marseilles in France, his depictions of Morocco feature among his most exotic paintings.

A museum employee poses next to a painting by Winston Churchill entitled “Gate at Marrakech, man on donkey” at Leighton House Museum in west London. (AFP)

His passion for the translucent light of Marrakesh, far from the political storms and drab skies of London, dates back to the 1930s when most of Morocco was a French protectorate.

Churchill’s first painting of Morocco was completed in 1935. Titled “Scene in Marrakesh,” it is set to be auctioned by Christie’s later this year.

The work was painted while on a stay at Mamounia, where he marveled at the “truly remarkable panorama over the tops of orange trees and olives,” in a letter to his wife Clementine.

He went on to make six visits to the North African country over the course of 23 years.

Christies auction house staff pose with a painting by Winston Churchill entitled “A view of Marrakesh” in London. (AFP)

“Here in these spacious palm groves rising from the desert the traveler can be sure of perennial sunshine... and can contemplate with ceaseless satisfaction the stately and snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains,” he wrote in 1936 in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

He would set up his easel on the balconies of the grandiose La Mamounia hotel or the city’s Villa Taylor, beloved by the European jet setters of the 1970s.

It was from the villa, after a historic January 1943 conference in Casablanca with wartime leader US president Franklin Roosevelt and France’s Charles de Gaulle, that he painted what came to be regarded as his finest work, of the minaret behind the ramparts of the Old City, with mountains behind and tiny colorful figures in the forefront.

A Sotheby’s auction house employee poses with a rare painting entitled “Churchill’s Marrakech” by Winston Churchill, at the auction house in London. (AFP)

“You cannot come all this way to North Africa without seeing Marrakesh,” he is reputed to have told Roosevelt. “I must be with you when you see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains.”

After the US delegation had left, Churchill stayed on an extra day and painted the view of the Koutoubia Mosque framed by mountains — he then sent it to Roosevelt for his birthday.

What makes “The Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” so special is the fact that it was the only artwork he completed during World War II. 

However, it should be noted that Morocco was not the only Arab country Churchill painted. In 1921, he painted the Pyramids at Giza when he visited Egypt as Secretary of State for the Colonies for the Cairo Conference.

What makes this week’s whopping sale even more interesting, however, is the star power lent by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, who owned the piece before putting it up for auction.

The artwork had several owners before Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt bought it in 2011.

Jolie’s former husband Brad Pitt is known to be an art collector and during their 2014-16 marriage the pair bought some notable works, including pieces by Banksy and Neo Rauch.

The London-based auction house Christie’s told CNN that the Maleficent actress, 45, listed the artwork as property of the “Jolie Family Collection,” while US Weekly reported that it was a gift from Pitt to Jolie prior to their enagement.

The couple separated in 2016 and have spent years enmeshed in divorce proceedings, amid speculation about the division of their extensive art collection. They were declared divorced in 2019 after their lawyers asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning that two married people can be declared single while other issues, including finances and child custody, remain.

While Churchill’s painting of Marrakesh may no longer adorn Jolie’s walls, the sun-drenched piece will no doubt be appreciated elsewhere — at $11.5 million, we certainly hope so.