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Art Theft

How a fraudulent German art dealer conned her way into doing some real damage:

On May 9 Ticolat wired the balance, $1,275,000. He expected the pumpkin to arrive in Hong Kong shortly and told his client as much. Ticolat asked Gulbenkian to restore minor scratches on the pumpkin before shipping it to Asia. “The conservator got paid, the report was done, and it was all good to go,” Ticolat says. But there were delays; issues arose with insurance, customs, and the building of the crate.

While Ticolat waited for the pumpkin, Gulbenkian traveled to Lugano, Sardinia, Lisbon, Venice, Ibiza, and the Greek islands. She also transferred money to her husband and her mother in Munich. Meanwhile, Ticolat grew increasingly distressed. On August 21 he ­texted, “The pumpkin belongs to me. I paid for it. I want access. I will not wait another day.” Six days later he texted again. “This is insane. This ridiculous situation has been dragging on for months. You are totally irresponsible.” Gulbenkian replied, “If you bother me, I am going to not correspond with you anymore.”

In October 2017 Ticolat flew to London for the Frieze Art Fair, and Gulbenkian suggested they meet at a restaurant in Belgravia. “She spoke very convincingly, sure of herself and what she was doing.” When Ticolat confronted her regarding the delay, Gulbenkian assured him that the work would be released the following week. She explained that the owner of the pumpkin, the head of Porsche, was a “family friend” and “very difficult.” He worried, she said, that the sculpture being sold to another dealer would reflect badly on him, as if he were reselling for a quick profit. Ticolat assured Gulbenkian this was not the case, and they agreed to sign a no-resale agreement. Ticolat flew back to Hong Kong feeling more assured, but when another week passed, he grew angry again. Their mutual animosity was reflected in the messages they began sending each other. “You are a liar,” Ticolat texted on December 14.

Fuck you,” came the reply.

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