Ex-Marcos aide on trial in NYC case of Monet work

Updated 29 January 2014

Ex-Marcos aide on trial in NYC case of Monet work

NEW YORK: A debt-ridden onetime aide to Imelda Marcos wrongly sold a hidden treasure: a $32 million Monet painting the former Philippine first lady had acquired and her country wants back, prosecutors said Wednesday as the ex-assistant’s conspiracy trial opened.
In a New York courtroom, Vilma Bautista is facing charges that invoke the tangled history of Philippine officials’ efforts to reclaim items from Marcos and her late husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Bautista is accused of scheming to sell the artwork — part of the French Impressionist’s famed “Water Lilies” series — and trying to peddle other valuable paintings that prosecutors say she had no right to sell. The artwork vanished amid Ferdinand Marcos’ 1986 ouster, ended up in Bautista’s hands and is part of a multibillion-dollar roster of property the Philippines claims the Marcoses acquired with the nation’s cash, prosecutors said.
But for all the art-world intricacies and Philippine politics, “at bottom, this case is really quite simple — it’s about greed and fraud,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Garrett Lynch told jurors in an opening statement.
The defense said Bautista believed that Imelda Marcos rightfully owned the paintings and that Bautista had authority to sell them for her. Bautista is just an intermediary who got caught up in a decades-long dispute between a nation and its former leader, attorney Susan Hoffinger said.
“That battle doesn’t belong here” in a Manhattan criminal courtroom, Hoffinger said in her opening.
After ruling the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades, Ferdinand Marcos was forced by a “people power” revolt into exile in Hawaii. He died three years later.
Philippine officials say Marcos and his associates looted the country’s treasury to amass between $5 billion and $10 billion. The nation’s Presidential Commission on Good Government has seized a number of companies, bank accounts and other assets suspected of being part of that wealth. The Marcoses denied their wealth was ill-gotten.
With a massive collection of shoes, Imelda Marcos became a symbol of excess. But she has emerged relatively unscathed from hundreds of legal cases against her and her late husband, and she is now a congresswoman in the Philippines.
She’s not expected to testify at Bautista’s trial.
Bautista was a foreign service officer assigned to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations and later served as Imelda Marcos’ New York-based personal secretary.
By 2009, Bautista was deep in debt. She began looking to sell four paintings the Marcoses had acquired during the presidency — including Monet’s 1899 “Le Bassin aux Nymphease,” also known as “Japanese Footbridge Over the Water-Lily Pond at Giverny,” prosecutors said.
Bautista ultimately sold the water lily painting for $32 million to a Swiss buyer, Lynch said. Some proceeds went to Bautista’s relatives and associates and to debts; $15 million stayed in her bank accounts, while Imelda Marcos knew nothing of the sale, the prosecutor said.
Bautista had a 1991 “certificate of authority” from Marcos to sell the painting and receive the proceeds, the defense emphasized; prosecutors question its legitimacy. At the time, the work was not on the Philippines’ list of allegedly missing paintings, though the government now seeks its return.
Bautista’s lawyer said the aide sold the painting for Marcos but never had a chance to give her the money.
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AP writer David Thurber contributed to this story from Bangkok.


New restoration works shore-up Iraq’s historic Arch of Ctesiphon

Updated 25 November 2021

New restoration works shore-up Iraq’s historic Arch of Ctesiphon

  • The famed sixth-century monument, located around 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the capital Baghda

MADAIN, Iraq: Iraq's 1,400-year-old Arch of Ctesiphon, the world's largest brick-built arch, is undergoing restoration work as part of efforts to return it to its former splendour, authorities said Wednesday.
The famed sixth-century monument, located around 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, is the last structure still standing from the ancient Persian imperial capital Ctesiphon.
Restoration work on the arch, also known as Taq-i Kisra from its Persian name, was carried out in 2013 after a massive slab fell off due to damp caused by heavy rain.
But the new bricks too have begun to fall following downpours last year.
A first phase of "emergency" works that began in March are due to end next month, said David Michelmore, a conservation expert working with a team of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania.
"What is falling down at the minute is not the original Sassanian construction, it's the modern repairs," he told AFP.
"There was quite a lot of reconstruction done in 2013-2014 and probably all of this will need to be taken down and replaced," he said.
Construction of the arch began in AD 540 during the Persian Sassanid dynasty's long wars with the Byzantine Empire. It formed part of a palace complex started three centuries earlier.
At 37 metres (122 feet) tall and 48 metres (158 feet) long, it is the largest brick-built arch in the world.
Iraqi Culture Minister Hassan Nazim said the works aimed to "consolidate" the site, which is near the bank of the Tigris River and is at risk of groundwater infiltration.
The current phase is financed thanks to a budget of $700,000 from the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), said Laith Majid Hussein, director of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.
He lamented "numerous mistakes" in the previous restoration, including the installation of a heavy "layer of cement on the arch".
The next stage would be a "total restoration" that would help strengthen the structure and prevent any collapse, he said.
In 2004, the Global Heritage Fund said that, as a result of disrepair, the arch was "in danger of collapse".
Those warnings proved prescient -- in late 2012, a slab about two metres (six feet) in length fell off.


Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts

Updated 27 October 2021

Curtain set to rise on new era for Saudi performing arts

  • The new body will provide an umbrella organization for performers while promoting new talent and expertise

JEDDAH: The curtain is set to rise on a new era for Saudi performing arts with the establishment of a dedicated theater association.

As part of the Kingdom’s cultural transformation, the new body will provide an umbrella organization for performers while also attracting and promoting new talent and expertise.

Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi said the association would bring together professionals from the worlds of theater, folk arts, circus, stand-up comedy, and dance.

Headed by Saudi actor Nasser Al-Qasabi, the association’s board of directors will include academic researcher Sami Al-Jamaan, actors Rashid Al-Shamrani, Sami Al-Zahrani, and Fatima Al-Banawi, director Khaled Al-Baz, actor and playwright Yasser Madkhali, writer Fahd Al-Hoshani, kinetic arts performer Roaa Al-Sahhaf, comedian Yasser Bakr, and Saudi ballerina Samira Alkhamis.

Performing arts has been a part of human culture down the ages and was even used as a way to inform people about the negative impact of social practices.

However, although well-represented in the West, only recently have theatrical shows and their performers been supported in the Kingdom by official bodies such as the Ministry of Culture’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission, set up under the National Strategy for Culture framework. 

In a tweet, association president, Al-Qasabi said: “I am honored to work with my colleagues in the new association to overcome difficulties and advance this lofty profession. In a few months, the work of the association will be launched, and we look forward to your participation in a new creative journey.”

Performing arts are considered to have benefits on a personal, social, and community level, with live theater helping to encourage social dialogue, highlight issues, and provide an outlet for society to find solutions to problems.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Ministry of Culture has been behind a number of significant initiatives and organizational developments that have taken place in the Saudi theater sector this year.

• These have included the establishment of the National Theater, and subsequently the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, and partnership projects with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to improve professionalism in the sector.

Mohammed Al-Subaih, director of the Jeddah-based Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, described the establishment of the new association as “a most welcome move” that would offer a strong voice for performers in Saudi Arabia.

He told Arab News: “It will definitely contribute to the work of actors and performers and also bring up the level of work of Saudi theater.”

Saudi actor Abdullah Al-Sinani said: “(The association is) a wonderful step that reinforces our permanent ambition toward the status of Saudi theatrical superlatives. I wish the association and its members success in enriching the local theatrical movement.”

In a tweet, Wael Al-Harbi said: “I was honored to be chosen as a founding member of the first association for theater and performing arts.”

And Sultan Al-Bazie, chief executive officer of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said: “We expect the association to be an active element in the development of the sector.”

The Ministry of Culture has been behind a number of significant initiatives and organizational developments that have taken place in the Saudi theater sector this year.

These have included the establishment of the National Theater, and subsequently the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, and partnership projects with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development to improve professionalism in the sector.

In 2016, the General Entertainment Authority was formed, followed by the Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission last year. The current registration of the Cinema Society will represent the first specialized civil body of its kind in the Kingdom concerned with the film industry.


KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

Updated 20 October 2021

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.

From red carpet premieres  and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15.  It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.

The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent. 


Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

Updated 18 October 2021

Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

  • Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades

RIYADH: Saudi artists, academics and critics will take part in five discussion sessions as part of the Art Memento Exhibition being held at the National Museum in Riyadh until Nov. 6.

The dialogue sessions, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, will focus on the history of visual arts in the Kingdom and the factors that influence artistic development, along with the role of what was previously known as the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in supporting art and artists over five decades.

The first of the dialogue sessions will be held on Monday under the title “The Journey of Art Collections from Youth Welfare to the Ministry of Culture.” Dr. Suzan Al-Yahya and Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmed will take part in this session as panelists, while Dr. Maha Al-Senan will be the facilitator.

The second session, “Towards a Better Organization of the Acquisition of Artworks,” will be held on Tuesday, with visual artists Mohammed Al-Saawi, Sara Al-Omran and Abdulrahman Al-Sulaiman as panelists and Hafsa Al-Khudairi as facilitator.

The third session will be held next Sunday under the title “The Features of Saudi Visual Arts from Modern to Contemporary,” and will feature Dr. Mohammed Al-Resayes, Dr. Eiman Elgibreen and Faisal Al-Khudaidi as panelists and Dr. Khulood Al-Bugami as facilitator.

“Fostering Arts and the Extent of their Cultural Impact on Society,” the fourth session, will be held next Tuesday, with Ehab Ellaban as panelist and Dr. Hanan Al-Hazza as facilitator.

The fifth and final session will take place on Nov. 2 under the title “The Journey of a Saudi Artist Between the Local and International Scenes.” It will feature Dr. Ahmed Mater, Bakr Shaikhoun and Maha Malluh as panelists and Dr. Noura Shuqair as facilitator.

The Art Memento Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades, documenting the history of the Kingdom’s visual arts for public display.

Saudi artistic development is highlighted in terms of form, subject and ideas, while the exhibition also celebrates the efforts of leading artists and founders, preserves their history and presents their work to a new generation.

Related


Mickey Mouse meets manga at biggest anime cafe in Saudi Arabia

Updated 13 October 2021

Mickey Mouse meets manga at biggest anime cafe in Saudi Arabia

  • Guests arriving at the Geek Cafe are greeted by a life-size action figure of the character Zoro from the “One Piece” manga series

JEDDAH: Fans of Japanese animation are looking forward to the opening on Thursday of Geek Cafe, the biggest anime-themed cafe in Jeddah.

The venue has been designed as a dream location for admirers of anime and Japanese comics, or manga, as Arab News discovered during a sneak peek ahead of the official opening.

More than 1,000 anime action figures and 300 manga publications on display cater to the various sections of the otaku community — the Japanese name for those with an all-consuming interest in a subject, in particular anime and manga — while the cafe also includes a manga reading hall, a board game section and an action figure store. 

Guests arriving at the Geek Cafe are greeted by a life-size action figure of the character Zoro from the “One Piece” manga series. From there they have a number of seating options, including a bar-style area, couches, chairs and even bean bags for a more relaxed experience.

A huge 3-meter-high mural features famous characters from anime and manga hits such as “Pokemon,” “One Piece,” “Digimon” and “One Punch Man,” along with Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

Food and drink options on the menu are also Japanese-inspired, with names to match, such as Sakura, the cafe’s signature drink named after the manga heroine. The background music consists mainly of anime songs. 

“I was always into anime and games, and there was no place where people like us could gather, so I decided to create a place that connected the otaku community,” Mohammed Farahat, the owner of Geek Cafe, told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

• More than 1,000 anime action figures and 300 manga publications on display cater to the various sections of the otaku community.

• A huge 3-meter-high mural features famous characters from anime and manga hits such as Pokemon, One Piece, Digimon and One Punch Man, along with Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

“The vibe of the cafe is welcoming, like a stay-a-while environment where you can come alone and meet people with the same interests. We cater to all; we even have more than 100 board games for our board game society.”

One challenge Farahat faced when planning the cafe was tracking down limited-edition action figures to put on display, as in some cases that are only 100 of them available. Ensuring the figures passed through customs safely was another issue. 

The cafe plans to host workshops covering subjects such as cosplay, manga illustration and drawing for anime, along with special meet-and-greet events. Arab News was joined at the cafe preview by YouTubers, bloggers and other social media influencers.

“The cafe is very diverse,” Muhannad Hafiz, owner of YouTube channel Anime Ghost, told Arab News. “If you want to see action figures, play board games or just want to drink coffee and chill, you can do all that.”

Gamer and YouTuber TMFaisal, said: “This place has three great features: Good food, cool decoration and many activities. What I like the most is the mix of activities that it covers, and it has everything a person needs. There is a section for manga readers that is really chilling.”

Bador Al-Hthiel, a gamer who live streams on Twitch, said: “I like how they went the extra mile by bringing limited-edition action figures to make the cafe special, and they put in extra effort when they commissioned a whole wall painting dedicated to our favorite heroes.”