A total of 146 paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh and other masters, which were allegedly bought with stolen funds by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, remain missing, the government said on Tuesday.
Marcos distributed his priceless collection of at least 300 artworks to cronies when his regime crumbled in 1986. Only about half have been recovered by Manila, said Andres Bautista, chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
“The Marcoses were art aficionados and they spent millions of dollars buying these paintings,” Bautista said.
The 146 paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh and other masters like Renoir, Rembrandt and Cézanne “could be anywhere,” he added.
The PCGG was formed in 1986 to recover Marcos’ embezzled fortune believed to be worth up to $10 billion, after the bloodless Edsa People Power Revolution ended his 20-year rule and forced him into US exile. He died in Hawaii in 1989.
The PCGG drew up the list of missing paintings from art gallery receipts and shipment records left behind by the Marcos family, Bautista told Agence France-Presse.
Vilma Bautista, the former personal secretary to Marcos’ widow, Imelda, along with two nephews, was indicted in New York last week over an alleged conspiracy to sell a Monet that had belonged to the first lady.
The Monet, “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas,” and three other paintings seized by US authorities from Bautista were on the Philippines’ missing list, said Andres Bautista, who is not related to the accused.
Vilma Bautista and her nephews allegedly sold the Monet to an art gallery in London for $32 million, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Return of paintings
The PCGG’s Bautista said he had met the New York prosecutors to ask for the return of the four paintings to Manila.
“Now, whether we bring them back here to be exhibited, or we sell them there and remit the proceeds to the national treasury would be up to President Aquino,” he said.
The other artworks from the Marcos collection that had already been recovered by the Philippine government were either sold or displayed in local institutions or museums, according to the PCGG chair.
The New York Times last week reported that in late 1985, with the looming end of the Marcos regime, a large truck pulled up in front of the Upper East Side townhouse where Imelda stayed and threw parties while in New York City.
Crates were seen stacked on the sidewalk, and by the time the dictator was ousted in February 1986, and the new government of Corazon Aquino reclaimed the house, the majestic paintings that had hung on its walls, including one from the water lily series by Claude Monet, had disappeared, according to the Times.
The 74-year-old Vilma Bautista, who has homes in New York City and on Long Island, was named, along with Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and their New York lawyers, as defendants in a suit brought in the New York State Supreme Court in 1986 that sought to return the Marcoses’ holdings to the Philippine government.
Last week, prosecutors accused Vilma Bautista of secretly keeping numerous works of art that had been acquired by the Marcoses for nearly a quarter of a century.
But beginning in 2009, Vilma Bautista and her nephews began efforts to sell some of the artwork discreetly, according to the indictment.
After the Monet water lily painting was sold to a London gallery in September 2010, Vilma Bautista kept most of the proceeds, but shared some with her nephews, Chaiyot Jansen Navalaksana, 37, and Pongsak Navalaksana, 40, as well as unnamed fellow conspirators in New York, according to the indictment.
Vilma Bautista was also accused of trying to sell three other valuable works: Monet’s “L’Église et La Seine à Vétheuil” (1881), Alfred Sisley’s “Langland Bay” (1887) and Albert Marquet’s “Le Cyprès de Djenan Sidi Said” (1946), also known as “Algerian View.”
Vilma Bautista and her nephews face conspiracy charges and tax fraud for failing to report income from the sale of the Monet. If convicted, Vilma Bautista would face up to 25 years in prison and her nephews up to four years. She pleaded not guilty and was released on a $175,000 bond.