January 22, 2020

Guilty Thieves Explain Why They Gave Back Klimt’s ‘Portrait of a Lady’
ROME—When journalist Ermanno Mariani received a phone call last week from a man purporting to be one of the thieves who stole Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of a Lady” from the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery in the Italian city of Piacenza in 1997, he was understandably skeptical. The journalist had covered the case of the missing painting for years, chasing various leads that took him from the black market of stolen masterpieces to the underworld of devil worship and sorcerers. Twice he had interviewed men he believed to be involved in the burglary, but both times he failed to prove a connection.Mariani had all but given up on the case when the painting, worth more than $65 million, resurfaced in early December after a gardener peeled back some musty ivy from the museum wall and found it wrapped in a garbage bag and hidden in a secret alcove. The obvious question was whether it had been there the whole 23 years or had recently been stuffed into the secret compartment. The answer would soon come, but first conservationists had to confirm its authenticity. Mariani published a book last year about the painting’s unusual past. “Portrait of a Lady” was actually a double portrait of sorts; in 1996 an art student accidentally discovered that it was actually an overpainting of Klimt’s long-lost “Portrait of a Young Lady.” The original painting, which is reported to have depicted a lover of the Venetian painter who died suddenly, had disappeared in 1917, the year before the new work was completed. Klimt is thought to have painted over her quickly to erase the painful memory. The new painting disappeared just as the museum was preparing an exhibit to showcase the newfound history of the masterpiece. But days before the exhibit was to open in February 1997, “Portrait of a Lady” disappeared, likely lifted through a skylight with strong fishing wire, which mirrored other art thefts in Italy at the time. Mariani says his book was his final homage to the work that he assumed had been destroyed or sold and in the possession of a private collector. “I was sure it would never be found,” he told The Daily Beast. “And when it was, I felt like I had found a long lost relative.”Last Friday, when art historians confirmed its authenticity through X-rays to see if the original painting was there, Mariani got the curious call, and the voice was oddly familiar. The man on the phone said he was the person Mariani had previously interviewed about the theft. Mariani also received a letter claiming, “We are the authors of the theft of Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady, and we have given a gift to the city by returning the canvas.” He turned the letter, written in large block writing, over to police. The thief and his companion—who have not been named and are facing final sentencing for a separate burglary—said they returned the stolen painting to the museum’s secret alcove four years ago, after the statute of limitations had expired for the theft. They had been waiting for someone to find it and were ready to start dropping hints when the gardeners discovered it in December during winter pruning. There is some speculation—yet unproven—that the gardeners had indeed been tipped off.Now the thieves are hoping that their “generosity” in returning the stolen work, which they say through their lawyer is a “gift to the city,” will buy them lenience on further crimes. Their lawyer, Guido Gulieri, told The Daily Beast that they returned the painting four years ago, but gave scant details. “They had confessed to this crime on numerous occasions, but no one ever believed them,” he said. “They have even given an address where the painting had been kept all those years.” Police confirmed to the The Daily Beast that they are investigating a private address related to the crime.Klimt’s double masterpiece “Portrait of a Lady” was listed as the second most important of more than 1 million stolen artworks categorized in Italy’s cultural theft database. The first on the list is Caravaggio’s “Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence” which was stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo in 1969. “Portrait of a Lady” was completed in 1918—the year before Klimt died—and sold in 1925 to Italian art collector Giuseppe Ricci Oddi, for whom the gallery from which it was stolen is named. As for what happens now to the painting with the mysterious history, the museum’s president, Massimo Ferrari, says they have been contacted by movie producers and book authors who want to adapt the tale of the incredible double portrait, heist, and recovery. Ferrari says that they will likely lend the painting to major museums across Italy to keep the fascinating story alive and perhaps inspire other thieves to return stolen works. He says they will also build a special space in the gallery for a permanent exhibition—but this time likely with full time guards and no skylight. 
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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