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Kusama Sculpture: German Socialite Pleads Guilty to Theft in Fraudulent Sale

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Angela Gulbenkian, a German socialite, pled guilty to two counts of theft in a London court on July 2, according to Publico.

Gulbenkian is accused of stealing $1.4 million from consultant Mathieu Ticolat’s Art Incorporated Limited after purchasing and never receiving one of Yayoi Kusama’s famed pumpkin sculptures in 2017. On July 28, Gulbenkian is scheduled to be sentenced.

Gulbenkian married into a notable European art-collecting family. Ticolat opted to trust her because of her pedigree, despite never having worked with her before, he told the South China Morning Post. Gulbenkian allegedly offered Ticolat a multitude of justifications as to why the Kusama piece hadn’t arrived after he purchased it.

Ticolat said he didn’t know he’d been duped until 2018, when the sculpture’s vendor, a Singapore-based company named Artseen, contacted him. Artseen informed him that, despite hiring Gulbekian to sell the piece on their behalf, they had never received the money Ticolat had given her. Gulbenkian’s partnership with Artseen has since ended, and Ticolat is still wondering whether he will receive his money back.

Gulbenkian evaded the law for years. In 2018, she signed a stipulation of settlement admitting that she owed Ticolat the money that she had stolen. Instead of paying back this debt to him, she defaulted and failed to show up for her hearing. In April 2019, a British court put out a warrant, but it was not until June 2020 that she was arrested and extradited to London, where she faces two other charges.

A London-based dealer is pressing charges after finding out that an Andy Warhol print of Queen Elizabeth II, for which he had paid $160,000, was in fact not Gulbenkian’s to sell. She is also accused of stealing almost $70,000 from massage therapist Jacqui Ball, who had asked Gulbenkian to invest it on her behalf. Gulbenkian allegedly kept the money for her own use.

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