German Heiress Pleads Guilty to Swindling Collector out of Kusama’s $1.4M Pumpkin

July 9th, 2021

German socialite and art dealer Angela Gulbenkian pleaded guilty in a London court of defrauding a buyer out of  $1.4 million in relation to the supposed sale of Yayoi Kusama’s 2012 Yellow Pumpkin. Mathieu Ticolat, a Hong Kong–based art advisor, paid Gulbenkian for the fiberglass work in 2017 but never received it. Gulbenkian claimed that insurance issues were preventing her from shipping the work, and threatened to cut off communication with Ticolat completely if he continued to “bother” her in regard to its whereabouts.

The case was to be heard in London in February 2020, but Gulbenkian failed to appear; tracked down in Lisbon four months later, she was extradited back to the UK. The heiress is said to have given $304,000 of the money extracted from Ticolat to her mother; a recovery effort of these funds is currently pending in Munich court. Gulbenkian additionally pleaded guilty to defrauding her masseuse, Jacqui Ball, of $69,000. Ball had supplied the amount in 2019 with the expectation that Gulbenkian would invest the money on her behalf. Sentencing in regard to both malfeasances is scheduled for July 28.

Separate charges are still pending in relation to a separate case involving a 2019 sale by Gulbenkian of Andy Warhol’s Queen Elizabeth II to London art dealer James Ashcroft. Ashcroft ponied up $151,000 for the 1985 print only to discover, after the real owner demanded the return of the work—which Ashcroft had already resold—that Gulbenkian had not been authorized to sell the piece in the first place.

Gulbenkian, born Angela Maria Ischwang, is married to the great-grand-nephew of the late Armenian oil magnate and art collector Calouste Gulbenkian, founder of the renowned Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Since the abovementioned charges were leveled, the organization has distanced itself from the Munich-born grifter, saying she “does not have any relation whatsoever with the foundation.”