Runaway Art Heiress Angela Gulbenkian, Accused of Scamming a Collector Out of a $1.4 Million Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin, Has Been Arrested in Lisbon

She is currently being held in Lisbon and is awaiting extradition to the UK.

Angela Gulbenkian (left). Photo by Angela Gulbenkian, via Instagram.
Angela Gulbenkian (left). Photo by Angela Gulbenkian, via Instagram.

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 issue a European Arrest Warrant in February.

Authorities tracked the 38 year old 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 Bloomberg.

Yayoi Kusama, <i>PUMPKIN</i> (2018). Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice, ©Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama, PUMPKIN (2018). Angela Gulbenkian was arrested for fraudulently selling a similar work for $1.4 million. Photo courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai and Victoria Miro, London/Venice, ©Yayoi Kusama.

“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. A previous warrant issued for her arrest last June was vacated after she told the judge she had missed an earlier court date due to elective surgery.

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.

Angela Gulbenkian arranged for the sale of this Andy Warhol Queen Elizabeth II print, but never delivered the payment to the original owner. Courtesy of Art Recovery International.

Angela Gulbenkian arranged for the sale of this Andy Warhol Queen Elizabeth II print, but never delivered the payment to the original owner. Courtesy of Art Recovery International.

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.


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