Angela Gulbenkian, who married into one of Europe’s most prominent art families and allegedly leveraged their name to conduct fraudulent art deals, has been arrested in Portugal.
The jet-setting art heiress is facing two charges of theft in the UK, including one in connection with the £1.1 million ($1.4 million) sale of a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture in 2017. The purchaser, Hong Kong-based art advisor Mathieu Ticolat, says he paid in full but never received the work.
Gulbenkian’s trial, which was set to begin in the UK in February, hit a snag when she failed to appear on her scheduled court date, leading London’s Metropolitan Police to issued a European Arrest Warrant in February.
Authorities tracked her down in Lisbon on Tuesday, and she is being held “in preventive detention” until she can be extradited to the UK, a Portuguese prosecutor told .
“We are surprised it has taken so long,” Christopher Marinello of Art Recovery International, who is representing Ticolat, told Artnet News.
Marinello has filed a civil lawsuit in Germany against Siglinde Ischwang, Gulbenkian’s mother, with whom he believes Gulbenkian had been staying. He alleges that the art dealer gave her mother £221,000 shortly after Ticolat paid for the Kusama artwork.
Gulbenkian previously settled a civil case with Ticolat, but allegedly never made the agreed-upon payment.
An anonymous London dealer filed a separate lawsuit against Gulbenkian in Germany in January, alleging that she fraudulently sold him an Andy Warhol print for £115,000 ($151,000) in March 2019.
Gulbenkian, who was born Angela Ischwang, changed her name when she married Duarte Gulbenkian, the great-grandnephew of British-Armenian art collector and oil baron Calouste Gulbenkian.
In conducting her art deals, she used a Gulbenkian Foundation email address, giving her credibility as an art advisor, though she was never formally affiliated with the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum nor the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.