Imelda Marcos Bought LACMA’s “Goya”

It is funny because, after visiting the Museum in 1976, I returned to England and got in touch with the well-known art critic, Brian Sewell. I told him if he wanted a great story he should check into the authenticity of Imelda’s art collection. I assured him he would have the art scoop of all time. I sent him a great deal of information on the so-called “provenance” of the paintings and appraisals by various art connoisseurs. Sewell refused to touch the story as he had visited Manila several times and was already a “darling” of Imelda’s “Blue Ladies”. He told me Imelda had shown him some of the art works privately so I can only assume he remained silent simply because he did not want to rock the boat or jeopardize his friendships with the “Blue Ladies”.
About ten years later the New York Times published a front page article claiming all Imelda’s paintings in the Metropolitan Museum were fakes. They ascertained how much money she had wasted on them and how wealthy her art “scouts” had become through commissions they obtained on every sale. I cut out the article and sent it with a rude note to Brian Sewell, saying that he missed one of the biggest art scoops about of all time. He wrote a snide letter back to me, “You obviously hold a personal grudge against Imelda.”
Maybe he was right. But I simply felt that stealing huge amounts of money from government departments was one thing. Spending that money on buying fake paintings that were not worth the canvas they were painted on was another. And then “acquiring” yet more funds to build the fortress that became the Metropolitan Museum to house the fakes was the final stab in the back for the Filipino people.
William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

“I like the modern. I like the abstract. I like them because they get me to thinking. You know, sometimes I do not understand them. But I like things that I do not understand because they make me more curious. I do not claim to be a technician or scientist in the arts. But, as I always say, when I like something I like it even though I have no reasons for it. Just like friends. There are friends you like without knowing the reason. There are paintings you like but you don’t know why. There are paintings that are exciting, very exciting, and there are paintings that are very tiresome.”

—Imelda Marcos

Above, a 2007 Gunther Deichmann photograph of Imelda Marcos’ Manila home, showing Bernard Buffet’s Vase with Orange Chrysanthemums alongside photos of the Marcoses with Mao, Saddam Hussein, and Fidel Castro.

3 thoughts on “Imelda Marcos Bought LACMA’s “Goya”

  1. Caroline, 71 of those “Old Master” paintings that the Great Art Patroness bought and hung at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila were de-accessioned and sold at the Christie’s-NY auction in January 1991. As all were nearly of dubious provenance, they were all marked down considerably and were scooped up by shyster Italian art dealers — almost the same lot that sold the “fakes” in the 1st place to the Shopping Empress. Will write extensively of that batch and her other “art” adventures. courtesy of the purse of the Filipino people, in the book (as you saw in the outline).

    I got hold of the actual 1991 catalogue of the auction plus other pertinent info, etc. It’s really quite sad about the double duplicity that happened — how she thought she bought the genuine thing (although she naturally kept the French impressionists for herself and relegated all the 2nd-rate stuff to the Museum); and of course with the Filipino people footing the bill for her delusions. Tres tragique.

    1. Thanks Myles. I will be fascinated to read your chapters on this. All I know is that Jun Gonzales, an art restorer and good friend, asked me to go to Malacanang with him one day to check out Imelda’s latest acquisition, a Holbein! How she ever imagined she could have purchased a real Holbein on the market without the whole world knowing about it is simply crazy! I also know that I approached Brian Sewell, the top art critic in London, to look into the provenance of Imelda’s art collection a little more deeply and he would get a huge scoop. He refused because, as I found out, by that time he was so enchanted by Imelda and her Blue Ladies and they made such a fuss of him when he came to Manila that he didn’t want to jeopardize his “start status” among them. He was even thinking of buying land there and building himself a retirement home. A couple of years later the New York Times came out with the “scoop” about Imelda’s paintings on its front page and I was able to cut it out and send it to Brian with an “I told you so!” note attached to it!

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