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A German Socialite Is Headed to Jail for the Fraudulent Sale of a $1.3 Million Yayoi Kusama Sculpture

Angela Gulbenkian accepted payment for the work, though she had already sold it to another buyer for $1.3 million.

Angela Gulbenkian Henry Vaughan/Associated Press

German socialite Angela Gulbenkian will be jailed for 3.5 years after pleading guilty to two counts of theft earlier this month for stealing more than $1.4 million, according to Publico. Gulbenkian had been contracted by the Singapore-based company called Artseen to sell an iconic Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture that they had in their possession. She took payment for the work, but never completed the transaction.

In 2017, Gulbenkian sold the Kusama piece to Mathieu Ticolat of Art Incorporated Limited (AIL) for roughly $1.3 million. Though he had never met her, Gulbenkian’s impeccable pedigree—she married into a prominent European family known for their art collection—was enough to secure Ticolat’s trust. AIL transferred the money into her account, but Gulbenkian never alerted Artseen of the deal nor did she deliver the piece to AIL. It wasn’t until 2018, when a representative of Artseen got in touch with AIL, that they realized they had been hoodwinked. 

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The loss of those funds, from which Ticolat is still not sure he can recover, has been a major financial blow. In court Ticolat said, “This industry is based on trust and I believed her because she said she was part of the Gulbenkian family. I was deceived…I’m not a billionaire, I’m an arts adviser and I’m still trying to recover.”

The stolen money funded Gulbenkian’s lavish lifestyle after her husband and his father had a falling out, which left them cut off from the family fortune. The funds were eventually used to buy a Rolex, two pieces of art, various luxury items, and a ride on a private jet. 

Gulbenkian said she hoped to be able to give back the money she stole from AIL, as well as $70,000 she had taken from her friend Jacqui Ball, who had asked Gulbenkian to invest the money in art on her behalf. Supposedly, Gulbenkian was days away from securing a $2.5 million deal when she was arrested. Whether the deal was legitimate or not is unclear.

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