O que é este blog?

Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org. Para a maior parte de meus textos, ver minha página na plataforma Academia.edu, link: https://itamaraty.academia.edu/PauloRobertodeAlmeida;

Meu Twitter: https://twitter.com/PauloAlmeida53

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulobooks

Mostrando postagens com marcador The Wall Street journal. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador The Wall Street journal. Mostrar todas as postagens

domingo, 23 de fevereiro de 2020

A diferença entre Estados autoritários e os democráticos: China como "homem doente da Ásia" no Wall Street Journal

Vinte anos atrás, a prestigiosa revista mais do que secular The Economist tinha uma capa, um editorial e várias matérias sobre a Alemanha, como "o homem doente da Europa", a propósito da relativa estagnação da economia alemã naquela conjuntura.
Qual foi a reação dos dirigentes alemães?
Nenhuma, absolutamente nenhuma.
Ou melhor, reconheceram os problemas do momento e trataram de corrigi-los para que o país retomasse seus antigos níveis de produtividade e competitividade que sempre distinguiram a Alemanha, temporariamente afetados por políticas erradas e pelos impactos reais da integração da RDA, acrescidos dos problemas trazidos pouco antes pela moratória russa, que afetou muitos bancos alemães.
A China já foi chamada de "homem doente da Ásia", no final do século XIX, quando ela realmente estava em decadência e tinha perdido guerras contra a Rússia czarista e o Japão ascendente, assim como estava sendo humilhada pelos imperialismos ocidentais, e não tinha sequer como retaliar.
Logo depois foi a vez do Império Otomano, de ser chamado de "homem doente", o que era também um fato, em breve confirmado pelo fim do Império e o nascimento da Turquia moderna, com um território reduzido em relação ao enorme império antes espalhado pelo sul da Europa, Oriente Médio e norte da África.
Hoje, a China, que não tem nada de "homem doente" da Europa, enfrenta um problema episódico, que vai ser superado dada sua enorme capacidade de reação, sua organização, seu poderio econômico.
O grande historiador e especialista de relações internacionais, Walter Russell Mead, realmente perpetrou um erro grave – ou então a responsabilidade incumbe aos editores –, ao chamar a China de "homem doente da Ásia", mas ele é um colunista baseados nos EUA, que tem liberdade para publicar o que deseja no Wall Street Journal, um jornal conservador, mas provavelmente o melhor jornal do mundo, junto com o Financial Times. A decisão da China de expulsar três jornalistas do escritório de Beijing do WSJ apenas revela o espírito totalitário do PCC, sua intolerância com as opiniões de um acadêmico, que não afetariam em nada a capacidade da China de resolver um grave problema de saúde pública. 
Essa é a diferença entre as democracias e as ditaduras: as primeiras não interferem na liberdade de imprensa e sobretudo na opinião de comentaristas e acadêmicos. Ditaduras costumam controlar seus cidadãos e os próprios jornalistas estrangeiros que escrevem sobre o país. A retaliação inaceitável da China contra jornalistas estrangeiros apenas confirma essa diferença básica, que um dia será superada, para felicidade do próprio povo chinês.
Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Inside The Wall Street Journal, Tensions Rise Over ‘Sick Man’ China Headline

After China announced the expulsion of three of the paper’s journalists, 53 reporters and editors at The Journal asked top executives to consider changing the headline and apologizing.
John Wisniewski
More than four dozen journalists at The Wall Street Journal challenged their bosses and criticized the newspaper’s opinion side in a letter that was sent to top executives on Thursday, the day after China announced that it would expel three Journal staff members in retaliation for a headline that offended the country’s leaders.
In all, 53 reporters and editors signed the letter. They criticized the newspaper’s response to the fallout from the headline, “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia,”that went with a Feb. 3 opinion essay by Walter Russell Mead, a Journal columnist, on economic repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak.
The letter, which was reviewed by The New York Times, urged the newspaper’s leaders “to consider correcting the headline and apologizing to our readers, sources, colleagues and anyone else who was offended by it.”
Describing the headline as “derogatory,” the letter was sent on Thursday from the email account of the China bureau chief, Jonathan Cheng, to William Lewis, the chief executive of Dow Jones and the newspaper’s publisher, and Robert Thomson, the chief executive of News Corp, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled parent company of Dow Jones.
Mr. Cheng, who did not sign the letter, wrote in a separate note that he was passing the letter along to the two executives, adding that he believed their “proper handling of this matter is essential to the future of our presence in China.”
The in-house criticism brought to the surface longstanding tensions at The Journal between the reporters and editors who cover the news and the opinion journalists who work under the longtime editorial page editor, Paul A. Gigot. As at other major newspapers, including The Times and The Washington Post, the news side and the opinion department are run separately.
Mr. Gigot oversees the unsigned editorials that represent the newspaper’s institutional voice, the op-ed columns like the one by Mr. Mead and the criticism in the arts and culture sections. He also hosts a program on Mr. Murdoch’s network, the Fox News Channel.
Foreign news media organizations in China tread a difficult path. The nation’s growing economic and political clout make it an essential story. Chinese officials covet attention from the global stage, and images of foreign reporters jotting down their comments at news conferences are a staple of state-controlled evening news shows.
The Chinese government uses visas for foreign journalists as leverage, doling out and retracting credentials as a way to influence news outlets. Foreign news media organizations face pressure to steer clear of sensitive topics like the wealth and political pull of the families of the country’s leaders.
Like many other international news organizations, The Times among them, The Journal is blocked online in China, and the “Sick Man” headline was brought to wide attention there by state-controlled media, amid nationwide concern over an epidemic that has infected over 76,000 people in China and killed more than 2,400.

China was sometimes described as the “sick man of Asia” at the end of the 1800s, in “the depths of what we now call China’s ‘Century of Humiliation,’” said Stephen R. Platt, a historian of modern China at the University of Massachusetts. The empire had then lost a series of wars and had feared being divvied up by imperial powers.
“Nobody in their right mind would confuse China today with China at the end of the 19th century,” Mr. Platt said. “I think that’s where the insult lies, this hearkening back to this terrible period and somehow implying that it’s all the same.”
On Wednesday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a transcript provided by the Chinese government that Chinese officials “demanded that The Wall Street Journal recognize the seriousness of the error, openly and formally apologize, and investigate and punish those responsible, while retaining the need to take further measures against the newspaper.”
The statement added that “the Chinese people do not welcome media that publish racist statements and smear China with malicious attacks.”
The Journal has not made a formal apology. The closest it came was when Mr. Lewis, the publisher, said in a statement on Wednesday that the headline “clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”
Susan L. Shirk, the chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego, said that there was reason for the newspaper to refrain from making an apology now that the Chinese government had demanded one.
“The Chinese government has been coercive in its demands for apologies from all sorts of international groups on issues that are essentially domestic political issues,” Ms. Shirk, a deputy secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton, said. “This has the effect of interfering in freedom of expression in our own countries.”
A majority of the reporters and editors who signed the letter are based in the newspaper’s China and Hong Kong bureaus.
They included the three journalists whom China ordered to leave the country on Wednesday: Josh Chin, the deputy bureau chief in Beijing and an American citizen; Chao Deng, a reporter, who is also an American; and Philip Wen, a correspondent and Australian citizen who reported on an Australian investigation of a cousin of President Xi Jinping of China as part of an inquiry into organized crime. The Chinese government gave the journalists until Monday to leave the country.
The letter argued that “the public outrage” over the headline in China “was genuine” and said the “Sick Man” headline should be changed online.
“We are deeply concerned that failure to take such action within the next few days will not only inflict further damage on our China bureau’s operations and morale in the short term,” the letter said, “but also cause lasting damage to our brand and ability to sustain our unrivaled coverage of one of the world’s most important stories.”
The letter also noted that people at The Journal had raised concerns about the “Sick Man” headline before China announced that it would revoke the journalists’ visas and order them out of the country. It also questioned whether the headline was “distasteful,” given the coronavirus outbreak.
A Dow Jones spokeswoman confirmed that the executives had received the letter and said in a statement, “We understand the extreme challenges our employees and their families are facing in China.” The company added that it “will continue to push” to have the visas of its three journalists reinstated.
Mr. Cheng, the China bureau chief, and more than a dozen others who signed the letter did not respond to requests for comment.
In addition to criticizing the headline, the letter took issue with an unsigned editorial published by the newspaper on Wednesday, after China’s announcement that the journalists would be expelled.
In the punchy style the editorial page is known for, it got right to the point: “President Xi Jinping says China deserves to be treated as a great power, but on Wednesday his country expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters over a headline. Yes, a headline. Or at least that was the official justification.” The editorial went on to argue that the Chinese government had revoked the reporters’ credentials to divert attention from its “management of the coronavirus scourge.”
The editorial acknowledged criticism of the headline but defended it as echoing a description familiar to American readers that cast the late Ottoman Empire as the “sick old man of Europe.”
Shen Yi, a lecturer on international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said The Journal’s headline displayed a sense of racial superiority. The language was similar to comments by Kiron Skinner, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, who had said that with China, the United States had “a great power competitor that is not Caucasian,” Mr. Shen wrote in a recent essay.
“The increasing prominence and scope of this sort of language gives you a feeling for the despicable thoughts that underlie it,” Mr. Shen wrote. “Even now, in the 21st century, some U.S. officials and elites still deep in their hearts know and understand the world through the framework of the suzerain and its colonies.”
Mr. Mead, the writer of the op-ed, suggested in a Twitter post on Feb. 8 that he was opposed to the headline, writing, “Argue with the writer about the article content, with the editors about the headlines.” He declined to comment for this article.

domingo, 15 de dezembro de 2019

Book reviews on environment and sustainability - Christopher Caldwell (WSJ)

From Saving the Earth to Ruling the World

The transformation of the environmental movement.

Christopher Caldwell
The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2019

The year 1989 brought not only the end of the Cold War but also The End of Nature, one of the first books to address global warming, by the New Yorker journalist and climate activist Bill McKibben. Its title quickly crept into the folklore of environmentalism, overturning much inherited common sense about man’s relationship to nature. The legal philosopher Jedediah Purdy, for example, while not denying that there was such a thing as a “natural world,” nonetheless told an interviewer in 2015 that “‘nature’ no longer exists independent of human activity. From now on, the world we inhabit will be one that we have helped to make, and in ever-intensifying ways.”
Intellectuals have grown ever more confident that man is calling the shots. Some have taken to calling our epoch “the Anthropocene,” on the model of a geological epoch, like the Pleistocene or the Holocene. One is reminded of the wiseacre high-school-yearbook quotation that was popular in the middle of the last century:
God is dead.
     —Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead.
             —God
For surely the relevant problem is not that man has done away with nature but that nature might do away with him. We have courted danger in so many ways, with pesticides and disease research, with genetic manipulation, cloning, and nuclear fission. It was quite natural that, once the Cold War’s distractions had passed, our relationship with nature would move to the center of our political life. Less expected was that the specific obsession that would seize the imagination of political activists was the weather.

A New Ideology
Worrisome rudiments had long been known. Carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbs heat. Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius warned at the turn of the 20th century that, as coal and oil burned and CO2 accumulated, the atmosphere would warm. In 1958 the oceanographer Charles Keeling set up a U.S. Weather Bureau observatory in Mauna Loa to measure atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which have shown a steep and almost perfectly linear rise ever since. Measurements taken of the Arctic ice cap in the 1960s showed alarming melting. But it was only at the end of the 1980s that scientists’ data came to preoccupy politicians, bringing hearings by Democratic senators Tim Wirth of Colorado (who sought a “New Deal for global warming”) and Al Gore of Tennessee. In 1988 an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded at the United Nations. Ever since, the IPCC, backed by a hard core of professors and political agitators worldwide, has been locked in battles with the American, Chinese, Indian, Russian, Brazilian, and other national governments over how serious a problem global warming is, what measures must be taken to correct it, and who must pay for them. A “Green New Deal,” going far beyond Wirth’s early proposals, may soon be part of the Democratic Party platform.
The novelist Nathaniel Rich, in a new history, Losing Earth, has focused on the late Cold War origins of climate consciousness. His claim is that we might have stopped global warming in its tracks back then, had we been bold enough to act. “[I]n the decade that ran between 1979 and 1989, we had an excellent chance,” he writes. “The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding framework to reduce carbon emissions…. [W]e came so close, as a civilization, to breaking our suicide pact with fossil fuels.”
No, we didn’t. We didn’t even come into the general neighborhood of doing that. A faithful reporter and a stylish writer, one with a gift for seeing complexity, Rich nonetheless has trouble thinking his way into the very different kind of environmentalism that existed before global warming became a global cause. But what did happen in those years is just as interesting, and visible at the margins of his book: a new internationalist ideology was born out of the ashes of the one that had just been vanquished.
The hero of Rich’s tale is Rafe Pomerance, grandson of the financier, philanthropist, and New Deal architect Maurice Wertheim, son of an important nuclear disarmament activist, and himself a welfare agitator until his awakening to environmentalism. That is fitting. Just as the “Christian Right” at the end of the 20th century was invigorated by imports from other, not conspicuously religious branches of the Republican Party, the climate movement is full of people from various non-meteorological walks of progressive life. To take just intellectuals, the anti-capitalist activist Naomi Klein writes increasingly about global warming. So do the prison reformer Michelle Alexander and the Indian novelist and literary radical Arundhati Roy. The novelists Jonathan Safran Foer, Amitav Ghosh, and (in France) Fred Vargas have all put their fiction careers on hold to write short, urgent non-fiction books about global warming—Ghosh, strangely, wondering why more people aren’t devoting their lives to writing about global warming. Rich’s own “climate fiction” (or cli-fi, as it is called) includes a love story set in a submerged Manhattan of the future.
It is fitting, too, that Pomerance should be not a scientist but a lobbyist. It is an article of faith today among those who deplore global warming that the debate on it is closed. They are right to say there is a scientific consensus around rising CO2 concentrations and increasing temperatures. But confidence in their own scientific rightness has made them science’s enemies as often as its friends. Many in the anti-global-warming movement are so confident about their science that they do not think they need scientists. They need uncomplicated activists, such as the Swedish high-schooler Greta Thunberg. “The climate crisis already has been solved,” the 16-year-old Thunberg said at a TED Talk in Stockholm this year. “We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.”

Politics and Pollution
So it has been from the beginning. If there is a low point for environmentalists’ hopes in Rich’s book, it comes with the 500-page National Academy of Sciences report Changing Climate, commissioned by Jimmy Carter in 1979 but not published until 1983, well into the Reagan Administration. Rich describes the moment as “lethal” to the climate activists’ cause. The report gathered dozens of the nation’s most distinguished oceanographers (including Roger Revelle of U.C. San Diego), economists (including William Nordhaus of Yale), climatologists and mathematicians—and lined them up behind a painstakingly documented case for the existence of global warming. So where is Rich’s problem with that? Not so much in anything the report argued but rather in the reluctance of most of its authors, at the press conference rolling out the study and thereafter, either to hector the public or propose remedies. They were scientists, not politicians.
Conversely, the giddy high point in the 1980s climate struggle came when television networks alerted the public to the “hole in the ozone layer” over Antarctica in the course of a debate over aerosols and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). It was a poor description of ozone’s place in the atmosphere—“[f]or there was no hole,” as Rich puts it, “and there was no layer.” But it resulted in a such a broad nationwide unease (albeit more over skin cancer than global warming) that Ronald Reagan, theretofore a skeptic, called for a 95% reduction in CFCs and signed the 1987 Montreal Protocol to limit greenhouse gases. The Antarctic ozone “hole” is now shrinking rapidly. If climate change (the science) is an “inconvenient truth,” climate change (the cause) frequently advances through convenient half-truths and even falsehoods.
Much of Pomerance’s work was in goading the climatologists he worked with (for example, the NASA computer modeler Jim Hansen) to be more attentive to P.R., and to recognize that “[p]olitics offered freedoms that the rigors of the scientific ethic denied.” These freedoms have always lain temptingly within the grasp of scientists, but Rich misses the Faustian aspect to them. The authority of science wanes in equal measure as the political engagement of the individual scientist deepens. In recent years the same rules have applied, mutatis mutandis, to political journalism and journalists.
One of the reasons Rich believes the 1980s could have been a watershed moment for climate activists is that many industry-affiliated bodies had shown themselves ready to investigate and solve ecological problems. In 1968, the American Petroleum Institute (API) commissioned a study from the Stanford Research Institute—“Sources, Abundance and Fate of Gaseous Atmospheric Pollutants”—in which the authors alluded to the possibility of “significant temperature changes” before 2000. Temperatures did indeed rise by just under 1°F over that period, according to NASA. Rich is not alone among climate-change activists in treating this API report as a “smoking gun”—evidence of oil-industry foreknowledge, and thus culpability. But to examine the original document, which is available online, is to see that it is no such thing. The report is tentative and deferential, citing Revelle’s warming theories, yes, but also research that warned of cooling.
The API did call it “ironic” that so much attention was then being paid to incidents of pollution here and there, so little to the overarching climate. They were right about this: in the early 1980s only seven of the 13,000 employees at the Environmental Protection Agency worked on climate. Yet you can see why an “abatement” approach, a mix of public-sector regulation and private-sector offshoring of dirty industries, was attractive in the 1980s. It was producing extraordinary results: the Charles River in Boston, so dirty at the start of the Reagan Administration that university rowing crews were required to get tetanus shots if they capsized, is swimmable a generation later. Today, wolves have returned to the woods around Washington, D.C., and bald eagles to the coast of Maine. That is one reason why the country was not clamoring for a climate-change program at the end of the 1980s. If the problem was a form of “pollution,” then why risk upsetting the economy to fix a situation that was visibly improving?
There is no inherent reason why a scientific question such as climate should divide one political party from another. There is no Democratic and no Republican position on the temperature at which water boils. If today Republicans welcome climate skeptics more than Democrats do, their differences are probably over policy, not science. Just under half of Republicans agree that there is a scientific consensus that global warming is happening.
This statistic infuriates Rich. It ought to be unanimous, as he sees it, and the 1980s mark the moment when Republicans descended from the reasonableness of those API studies to Reagan’s “thuggish” deregulation, on their way to the “mustache-twirling depravity” of today’s party. George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff, John Sununu, whom Rich accuses of politicizing science, argues that no climate-change agreement was ever a possibility back then: “It couldn’t have happened,” he tells Rich in an interview,” because the leaders in the world at that time were all looking to seem like they were supporting the policy without having to make hard commitments that would cost their nations serious resources.”
Rich does not believe him, but Sununu is correct. When Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the Senate, by a vote of 95-0, refused even to consider ratifying it. Barack Obama chose a different route after the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. He ignored the constitutional requirement for Senate ratification altogether. Instead, Obama “ratified” the agreements reached in Paris by signing a personal “deal” with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping on a visit to Hangzhou in September 2016, promising (promising whom?) to “accept the said agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.” That bit of legerdemain did not make the Paris accords the law of the land. It did make them government policy—albeit for a much shorter while than had been anticipated in the autumn of 2016.
Rich ends his book on a “woke” note, if we can use that word to mean orotund, incendiary, and blind to any possibility of good faith in those who disagree with him. He accuses any politician who so much as claims to be unsure about climate change of “crimes against humanity,” the offense that was established as a grounds for hanging Nazis at the Nuremberg trials. “There will eventually emerge a vigorous, populist campaign to hold to account those who did the most to block climate policy over the last forty years,” he writes, and today’s lawsuits “may seem tentative compared with the vengeance to come.” At this point, the reader who has been nodding off will snap alert and ask: am I reading too much into this, or is he proposing to string a few of these people up?

From Ecology to Environmentalism
Rich, perhaps without intending to, charts a shift of paradigms— from the “ecological” perspective common to hippies and other nature-lovers at the start of the 1980s to today’s hard, “environmentalist” perspective, which is in some ways diametrically opposed to it. In the 1960s and ’70s, almost everyone had thought as an ecologist. It was understood that problems were accumulating in the “outdoors”: smog, junk floating down rivers, broken glass. A frequently aired public-service ad showed an Indian in tribal dress paddling his canoe out of a primeval forest, beaching it on a pile of garbage, then having a paper bag full of fast food heaved onto his moccasins from the window of a speeding car. The old “ecological” paradigm conformed to a long Western ethical and intellectual tradition. Its manifesto, to the extent it had one, was Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973), a collection of essays by E.F. “Fritz” Schumacher, refugee from Hitler, head of planning at the British National Coal Board, and brother-in-law of the theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. Schumacher’s message was simple: The earth’s resources are limited and, in many cases, unrenewable. We are wasting them.
The countercultural theorist Theodore Roszak placed Schumacher alongside Tolstoy, Gandhi, William Morris, and Lewis Mumford in the tradition of “anarchism, if we mean by that much-abused word a libertarian political economy that distinguishes itself from orthodox socialism and capitalism by insisting that the scale of organization must be treated as an independent and primary problem.” So while Schumacher was a kindred spirit to this hero of the hippie movement, he was also someone whose vision could inspire anyone who thought about life in a traditional or religious way. It might be necessary, Schumacher argued, to take a step back and reconsider whether our position is sufficiently respectful of nature, or sufficiently respectful of God. Our problem was that we were “inclined to treat as valueless everything that we have not made ourselves.”
This was particularly the case with fossil fuels. As people in the 21st century would, Schumacher worried that we were using them too much—although part of his worry was that we were using them up. Modern man, like a dissolute heir, was burning through his inheritance, treating his capital as if it were income. Schumacher noted especially that we were burning through “a certain kind of irreplaceable capital asset, the tolerance margins which benign nature always provides.” While this perspective vindicates the global-warming concerns of our time, it also repudiates our time’s simple solutions. Because if Schumacher is right that fossil fuels are capital, then once we have run through them, we will have run through them. Abandoning fossil fuels will not necessarily mean carrying on modern life in a wiser, saner way. It might mean giving up modern life altogether. We will either find another source of stored energy, such as nuclear power, or we will revert more or less to the way we got energy before: water, and the labor of animals, including ourselves.
Schumacher’s “ecology” was a system that ordinary citizens could understand by looking at it. Ecological damage consisted of things that citizens could pick up and filter out. People could thus judge the severity of the problem of pollution and instruct their elected representatives on how much they wanted done to fix it. The evidence from history is that they wanted quite a lot. That is why you can swim in the Charles today. The “ecological” understanding of nature and what it requires from us is compatible with democracy.
Modern “environmental” climate activism is less obviously so. Its science is mysterious to people, and science sometimes seems far from its main focus. To read almost any of the contemporary books that try to give an overview of climate change is to be struck by their non-scientific obsession with “capitalism.” Princeton English professor Roy Scranton, in Learning to Die in the Anthropocene (2015), describes the environmental crisis as “the collapse of carbon-fueled capitalism” and warns that “global decarbonization is effectively irreconcilable with global capitalism.” Similarly, the Harvard historian of science, Naomi Oreskes, co-authored a science-fiction dystopia about climate change, The Collapse of Western Civilization (2014). She and Erik M. Conway of the California Institute of Technology cast the enemy as the “carbon-combustion complex,” backed not just by energy companies but also by those who profit from them (advertisers, public relations, marketing firms). As Oreskes and Conway envision the future, only China will succeed at managing climate change, owing perhaps to a sensible program of environmental regulation under Communism, and vindicating “the necessity of centralized government.”
These books are cult favorites among global-warming activists. The authors may be right that non-capitalist countries have a better chance of addressing climate change. But if so that is not because non-capitalist economic systems are better or cleaner: during the Cold War, Communist East Germany was the most polluted country on the European continent. The advantage of non-capitalist countries is rather in their greater willingness to command and interfere. As for the carbon complex, any industry that controls a dominant energy source in a free economy risks turning into a “complex.” If all our cars were solar, then advertisers, public relations companies, and marketing firms would shill for sunshine just as ardently as they now do for oil. Industry lobbyists and other insiders will fight for special favors, too. That is one of the lessons of the Obama stimulus package of 2009. It was notoriously a boon to the now-bankrupt California solar-cell maker Solyndra. Plenty of extravagantly expensive products appeared on the scene, like the solar-powered “smart” trash cans made by Bigbelly, which cost thousands of dollars apiece. (Eighty of them were scheduled for installation in San Francisco last fall.)
If Schumacher’s way of fighting pollution follows the pattern of a religion, Oreskes’s follows that of an ideology. It proposes not that we hesitate, or doubt ourselves and our present structures, but that we work through their contradictions to some new synthesis, as Karl Marx envisioned. Our overuse of carbon (which it requires esoteric expertise to quantify) calls for a new economic order (which it will require esoteric expertise to design). The case does not lack for supporting evidence. With a world population headed towards 10 billion, many of them in places with a precarious food supply, we might not have the luxury of a global economy subject to great fluctuation. But Oreskes and Conway have an additional gripe. Like Rich, they are frustrated that so many scientists resist being politicized. The scientists have been “hamstrung by their own cultural practices,” they write, “unable…to act upon what they knew. Knowledge did not translate into power.” More power to experts: perhaps this has been the real climate agenda all along, whether the world is ending or not.

First World Problems
“Today,” writes Scranton, “global power is in the hands of a tiny minority, and the system they preside over threatens to destroy us all.” However true that might be as a description of economic privilege, it is diametrically wrong as a description of the politics of global warming. The problem is rather that access to (carbon) power has been democratized and decolonized, and that coal mining, traffic jams, and air-conditioned malls are now widespread in the most teeming parts of what used to be called the Third World. China accounts for 29% of global carbon emissions, the U.S. for 14%, Britain and other major European countries for a mere percent or two each.
If the United States still dominated the consumption of fossil fuels, we could make a dent in the world’s carbon footprint by setting off on a jag of self-abnegation, however out of the national character such an impulse might be. But as Americans were aspiring to clean energy, the rest of the world began to aspire to the lifestyle that we had acquired (and maintain) through carbon energy. Our old profligacy had passed almost unnoticed as long as there were only a few tens of millions of us living this way; but as Asia and Africa caught up, the whole carbon game threatened to become unsustainable.
We have little to do for poor countries except lecture them. Oreskes’s novel records that “a different version of denial emerged in non-industrialized nations, which argued that the threat of climate change was being used to prevent their development.” Is this really so unreasonable? The average Indian observing this Western paroxysm of climate moralism has reason to be suspicious about its timing. And since global-warming ideology always arrives with a spring-loaded, fully elaborated governing and regulatory agenda, “denial” might be the wrong word for what is more accurately described as a reluctance to pay with Eastern prosperity to solve a Western problem. Americans and Europeans not of the governing classes might have similar misgivings. What they are “denying” is not reality but the will of their rulers.
Solving the problem of global warming in the manner activists desire would require not only that we put our own moral house in order but also that we threaten those countries that insist on, say, burning coal to achieve the same lifestyle we already have. It would mean the equivalent of a non-proliferation treaty, to deny not weaponry but comfort and sustenance. (Although the weaponry would be denied, too, because to de-carbonize a society is essentially to disarm it.) Short of war, or statesmanship of the least democratic kind, it is hard to see how the anti-warming agenda can be carried out. Today’s climate politics are incompatible not just with this or that state but with the continuation of the state system in general.
At root, climate change is a Malthusian problem. The Canadian energy scientist Vaclav Smil said, in a recent New York magazine interview with the climate author David Wallace-Wells, that the depopulation of advanced countries might be a plus for the earth’s future. “Partially there is a ‘hope,’ I would say, in the sense that we are dying out,” Smil said. “As we have seen over the past three decades, once you get to 1.3 or 1.4 [children per woman per lifetime, the rate in many countries of Europe], there’s no…chance in hell that it could ever recover. Japan is losing now half a million people every year.” But this is a “hope” only so long as the green space freed up by depopulation does not get filled with migrants. If it does, then the level of economic sophistication will likely fall, and energy efficiency will fall along with it. More, not less, energy use will be the result. Most solutions to climate change are of this nature—miscalculation or poor execution can exacerbate the problem.
“As our technology grew more sophisticated,” Nathaniel Rich writes, “our behavior grew more childish.” It is a true and profound insight. Climate change is one of a family of crises of modernity involving Promethean hubris and unfunded externalities. It connects to all kinds of conflicts between nature and culture, or between barbarism and civilization, or between (to use Bertrand Russell’s dialectic) freedom and organization. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway speak for many climate-change activists when they imagine that future generations will marvel at “how we—the children of the Enlightenment—failed to act on robust information about climate change.” They probably won’t marvel at it so much if they recall that the Enlightenment has many aspects. It is the source of certain values, the source of a new type of domination by experts, and the source of energy-extracting technologies that have brought wealth beyond man’s wildest dreams. Like many problems the Enlightenment gets called in to solve, this is one of its own making.

Christopher Caldwell is a contributing editor of the Claremont Review of Books and the author of the forthcoming The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties (Simon & Schuster).

segunda-feira, 30 de abril de 2018

‘Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece’ at the British Museum (WSJ)

‘Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece’ Review: Recasting History

At the British Museum, an exhibition juxtaposes the work of the French sculptor with selections from the Elgin Marbles.

Unmounted youths preparing for the cavalcade, block from the north frieze of the Parthenon (c. 438-432 B.C.)
‘In my spare time, I simply haunt the British Museum,” Auguste Rodin told an interviewer in 1903. The museum had the Elgin Marbles—more than half of the surviving statues and friezes designed by Phidias (c. 480-430 B.C.) for the Parthenon at Athens.

Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece
The British Museum 
Through July 29
Rodin (1840-1917) was not so much haunted as captivated by Greece. Compelled to incorporate and extend its forms, he created a new genre, the partial figure, and adopted the fragment, archaeology’s gift to Modernism, as the expression of the complete work.
Brilliantly conceived, the British Museum’s new exhibition “Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece” juxtaposes Rodin with his idol Phidias. More than 80 works in marble, plaster and bronze, many from the Musée Rodin in Paris, are presented alongside selections from the Elgin Marbles in the clear, albeit not Attic, light of the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, whose end wall is a window.

Large plaster version of Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ (after 1898)
Large plaster version of Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ (after 1898) Photo: Musee Rodin
The rhythm of surface resemblance runs between the pairings, but it is the deep resonances and contrary pressures that make this exhibition so stunning. Cicero praised Phidias for summoning “a sort of extraordinary apparition of beauty” from his imagination (phantasia). Rodin sought “the entire truth, not only what is on the surface.” His sculptures are immersed in the fragmentary past, but their extraordinary beauty emerges as an intensely present reality.
The nude male in Rodin’s “The Age of Bronze” (1877) raises an arm like the tensely posed unmounted youth who prepares for the cavalcade on the north frieze of the Parthenon. The posture also invokes Michelangelo’s “The Dying Slave” (1513-16), and the Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer) of Polykleitos (440-430 B.C.). Instead of replicating Polykleitos’ arithmetical perfection and Phidias’ impersonal muscularity, Rodin presents a nervous, boyish figure.

Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Walking Man’ (1907); sand cast by Alexis Rudier 1913
Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Walking Man’ (1907); sand cast by Alexis Rudier 1913 Photo: Musee Rodin
“The Kiss” is a modern archetype, so we easily forget that the lovers are the adulterers Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and that Giancotto, his brother and her husband, is about to discover and kill them. Pairing a large plaster version of “The Kiss” (after 1898) with two diaphanously draped goddesses from the Parthenon’s East Pediment emphasizes the erotic flow of drapery and flesh-like marble between the goddesses. 
Rodin obscures his mortal’s faces; Phidias’ goddesses have lost their heads which, judging from surviving pedimental heads, would have been impassive. The body must talk, and the conversation runs between the pairings. Unfinished patches behind the goddesses are echoed by the all’antica roughness of the lovers’ seat. The crack where a goddess’s arm has broken is doubled by the crevice in Paolo’s back muscles. The goddesses have never seemed so three-dimensional, or so intimately alive.
The Parthenon sculptures were made as architectural ornaments, but dismantled as art objects. A similar fate befell “The Gates of Hell,” commissioned by the French state in 1880 for a decorative-arts museum in Paris that failed to materialize. Over the next decades, the figures climbed down as independent works, resonant with living myth. 

Rodin in his Museum of Antiquities at Meudon on the outskirts of Paris (c. 1910)
Rodin in his Museum of Antiquities at Meudon on the outskirts of Paris (c. 1910) Photo: Musee Rodin
The river god Ilissos, who once reclined on the West Pediment of the Parthenon, undulates next to “The Earth” (1896), in which Gaia strains against formlessness as though aspiring to pedimental perfection, and “Ariadne” (1905), who began as “Recumbent Woman” in “The Gates of Hell,” before being renamed after the “Sleeping Ariadne” in the Vatican. Time has exposed the hidden plane that predestined Ilissos to emerge from his marble block, a rippled striation that runs diagonally across his back from his left shoulder, and then down his right thigh. Rodin builds the same plane with Ariadne’s sinews.
The Victorian Neo-Hellenists, too late for Byronism and too early for Hollywood, aimed for perfection. Rodin saw the Marbles as they were: damaged and cryptic, defaced by the hammers of Christian zealots and dilapidated by Turkish gunpowder. Then and later, Athenian life was an agōn, a contest of forces. 
Bibi, the Parisian laborer who modeled for “Man With the Broken Nose,” resembles a Silenus or a Sophocles. He is not drunk on wine or language, but dazed by a blow from a shovel. We see the modern agōn in the broken planes of his face. He was denied entry to the Salon of 1865 (though he gained admittance in 1875).
With similar fluidity, Rodin invents the “Sister of Icarus” (1894-96), raises a naked dancer to the pantheon as “Iris, Messenger of the Gods” (1895), and combines fragments into “The Centauress” (1903-04). Her exaggerated stretch anticipates further modern dislocations. Before T.S. Eliot’s “heap of broken images,” Rodin was exploiting his “mutilated gods” as the material of new composites.
This is the first time that the British Museum has mixed Phidias’ Marbles with the work of another artist. Few could endure the contest. And Rodin, who never visited the Acropolis, might have appreciated this exhibition’s implicit argument for retaining the Elgin Marbles in so illuminating a spiritual exile: that the Rodin pairings put them into dialogue with the history of sculpture, rather than the myths of Athens. “What perfect unity there is in this fragment,” he marveled. “Is not the entire Acropolis here?”
—Mr. Green is a historian and critic in Boston.

sábado, 2 de julho de 2016

Famílias bilionarias sempre tem disputas milionarias, senão mais: 3 Bi na familia Goulandris (WSJ)





Vincent Van Gogh, ‘The Olive Pickers,’ 1889 
ART

The $3 Billion Family Art Feud



For half a century starting in the 1950s, Greek shipping mogul Basil Goulandris and his wife, Elise, lived in a manner worthy of a sun-soaked, Patricia Highsmith novel. They palled around with European aristocracy and flitted among their seven homes in places like Paris, New York’s Southampton and Switzerland’s Gstaad—when they weren’t sailing around the world on their yacht, “Paloma.”
The couple never had children. Instead, relatives say they devoted their energies to amassing one of the world’s best private art collections, valued at as much as $3 billion by one estimate. The trove of several hundred pieces included 11 Picassos, six van Goghs, five Cezannes and a rare pair of Monet’s 1894 views of the Rouen Cathedral, one bathed in blue hues and the other one in pink. The couple also had a bronze ballerina by Degas, a Pollock and a Balthus. When Balthus’s biographer, Nicholas Fox Weber, visited the couple in Switzerland, he said the paintings rimming their walls “made my knees go wobbly.”
The Goulandris collection is now at the center of one of the biggest and most complex legal disputes over art in Europe—including a bombshell revelation in the Panama Papers. The saga involves a collection of treasures that have largely been hidden for the past two decades, a secret seller using an offshore company to put up paintings for auction and a fight that boils down to one nonexistent will and one cryptic one. 
The chief protagonist in this 16-year family feud is a niece of the Goulandris’s who claims she and her cousins should have inherited much of the couple’s art after their aunt Elise died in 2000. The niece, Aspasia Zaimis, a feisty shipbuilder’s wife who is in her 70s and lives in Athens, says her aunt owned the trove when she died and intended for it to go to her relatives. Another set of cousins on her uncle’s side—and the couple’s namesake foundation—say otherwise. “People who say the collection wasn’t hers anymore are being unfair and degrading to my aunt,” Ms. Zaimis said. “I’m fighting for her.”
Left: Aspasia Zaimis photographed at her home in Porto Rafti, Greece, on June 20, 2016 | Right: Basil and Elise Goulandris in their home in Gstaad, Switzerland
Left: Aspasia Zaimis photographed at her home in Porto Rafti, Greece, on June 20, 2016 | Right: Basil and Elise Goulandris in their home in Gstaad, Switzerland PHOTO: FROM LEFT: MYRTO PAPADOPOULOS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; ZAIMIS FAMILY
Her main opponent is one of the couple’s longtime employees, a soft-spoken, snowy-haired historian named Kyriakos Koutsomallis, who manages the art collection of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens, which claims a right to some of the disputed art. Mr. Koutsomallis and the foundation are currently transforming a neoclassical mansion in Athens to become a 12-story museum that’s expected to display at least some of the Goulandris collection when it opens early next year. Mr. Koutsomallis, along with relatives on Mr. Goulandris’s side of the family, claim the most valuable pieces of the couple’s art collection—83 works— were quietly sold to an offshore company several years before Mr. Goulandris died and should not be part of any inheritance claims. Twenty nine of those 83 paintings—including some choice works like Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 “Olive Pickers” —have since been redirected back to the foundation, Mr. Koutsomallis has said in court papers, and are therefore not part of the widow’s estate. No one will say where the remaining works are located.
To finance her continuing court battles, Ms. Zaimis has made an unusual arrangement with a longtime New York private dealer, Ezra Chowaiki. In exchange for the lucrative rights to sell any paintings should Ms. Zaimis eventually prevail, Mr. Chowaiki said he has helped fund a case in Greece which Ms. Zaimis filed in 2001 and later shifted to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Arrangements like these are rare outside the realm of Nazi art restitution. Heirs to lost Jewish fortunes often team up with art lawyers who work for a promised share of any eventual art sales—an arrangement depicted in last year’s Helen Mirren film, “Woman in Gold.”
Now, art lawyers are following the Goulandris case to see if Mr. Chowaiki’s long bet on the collection, which he estimates is valued at $3 billion, will pay off or flounder. No estate worth more than roughly $500 million has ever come to auction. Thomas C. Danziger, a New York art lawyer who isn’t involved with the case, said, “It’s Agatha Christie meets Homer.”
One big reason for the ownership dispute: Mr. Goulandris died in 1994 without a will. After his death at age 81, relatives from his side of the family say they told his widow that in 1985 Mr. Goulandris had sold off the 83 gems of the couple’s collection to a Panamanian company controlled by his side of the family. It was called Wilton Trading. Mr. Goulandris was in debt at the time, the relatives say, and thus he accepted a firesale price of $31.7 million, or roughly $382,000 apiece. Elise Goulandris didn’t initially know about the sale but she allegedly went along with it, relatives said in court documents.

Greek Art Odyssey

A look at some of the highlights of the roughly $3 billion art collection of the Greek shipping mogul Basil Goulandris, whose art holdings sit at the center of a 16-year family feud.

The roughly $3 billion art collection of Greek shipping executive Basil and Elise Goulandris is at the center of a 16-year family feud, including Joan Miro’s 1926 'The Grasshopper.' Mr. Goulandris bought this surrealist painting in 1972 and his relatives say he sold it in 1985, a sale his niece Aspasia Zaimis disputes. A 1993 Miro show catalog from New York’s Museum of Modern Art listed the work as coming from the collection of Ms. Goulandris.
1 of 8fullscreen
In 1972, Basil and Elise Goulandris bought this Fernand Leger from 1919, 'Mechanical Elements,' and hung it in their home in Gstaad, Switzerland. The painter’s 1990 catalogue raisonné lists them as its owner as recently as 1990—even though Mr. Goulandris’s relatives say he sold it in 1985. When asked about the discrepancy, the director of the Goulandris’s museums in Andros, Greece, told Swiss prosecutors that the misattributions were all clerical errors. © ARS, NY/ADAGP, PARIS
The roughly $3 billion art collection of Greek shipping executive Basil and Elise Goulandris is at the center of a 16-year family feud, including Joan Miro’s 1926 'The Grasshopper.' Mr ...
Basil and Elise Goulandris often traveled with the gems of their art collection, shuttling them between their apartment in Paris and their chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, shown here. Hanging on the paneled back wall, from left, are Monet’s 1894 view of Rouen Cathedral, Pierre Bonnard’s 1907 'In the Bathroom' and Joan Miro’s 'The Grasshopper.' ZAIMIS FAMILY
Aspasia Zaimis, one of Ms. Goulandris’s four nieces, balked when the executor of her aunt’s estate told her that the bulk of her aunt’s collection had been sold in 1985. Ms. Zaimis said her aunt 'loved those paintings like they were her babies' and wouldn’t have approved of their sale to an offshore company. Ms. Zaimis, shown here, stands in front of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 'The Olive Pickers' in Ms. Goulandris’s home in Gstaad. ZAIMIS FAMILY
The 2002 catalogue raisonné, or official inventory, of the sculptures of Edgar Degas said this bronze cast of 'Little Dancer, Aged 14,' belonged to Basil and Elise Goulandris, even though Mr. Goulandris’s relatives claim he sold it in 1985. Other castings of the same sculpture have sold at auction for as much as $25 million. 
In 1991, art historian Nicholas Fox Weber visited the Gstaad home of Basil and Elise Goulandris and saw one of their prized pieces, Paul Cezanne’s 1883-84 'Portrait of the Artist Looking Over His Shoulder.' Mr. Weber, who now runs the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, described the 10-inch-wide canvas as 'one of the most magical paintings I’ve ever seen.' 
In 1996, Dutch scholar J.M. Meulenhoff updated his catalogue raisonné of Vincent van Gogh and included the painter’s 1888 'Still Life with Coffee Pot,' listing its owner as Ms. Goulandris—even though her husband’s relatives say Mr. Goulandris sold it in 1985. It was later exhibited by the Goulandris foundation at its museum in Andros. 
On June 14, 1957, Basil Goulandris made his international debut as a heavyweight collector at a Paris auction when he outbid Greek collector Stavros Niarchos to win a 1901 Paul Gauguin, 'Still Life with Grapefruit (Still Life with Apples and Fruit),' for $255,000—the most anyone had paid in more than a year for any painting that wasn’t by an Old Master, according to former Phillips auctioneer Simon de Pury in his 2016 memoir, 'Auctioneer.' 
In 1972, Basil and Elise Goulandris bought this Fernand Leger from 1919, 'Mechanical Elements,' and hung it in their home in Gstaad, Switzerland. The painter’s 1990 catalogue raisonné lists them as its owner as recently as 1990—even though Mr. Goulandris’s relatives say he sold it in 1985. When asked about the discrepancy, the director of the Goulandris’s museums in Andros, Greece, told Swiss prosecutors that the misattributions were all clerical errors. © ARS, NY/ADAGP, PARIS
The roughly $3 billion art collection of Greek shipping executive Basil and Elise Goulandris is at the center of a 16-year family feud, including Joan Miro’s 1926 'The Grasshopper.' Mr. Goulandris bought this surrealist painting in 1972 and his relatives say he sold it in 1985, a sale his niece Aspasia Zaimis disputes. A 1993 Miro show catalog from New York’s Museum of Modern Art listed the work as coming from the collection of Ms. Goulandris. © SUCCESSIÓ MIRÓ/ARS, NY/ADAGP, PARIS
Ms. Goulandris lived for another six years. Her own will, which she drew up after her husband died, contained no detailed inventory of the art collection and didn’t acknowledge the disputed sale of the 83 masterpieces. She bequeathed what she described as “antiquarian objects of value” to her Athens foundation for a possible museum. She didn’t specify which objects should go to it.
Her will also excluded everyone on her husband’s side of the family. Whatever didn’t go to the foundation was to be distributed by Mr. Koutsomallis among six beneficiaries on her side of the family, who didn’t learn about the alleged sale of the 83 prized works until after Ms. Goulandris died, according to Ms. Zaimis.
Ms. Zaimis—who is one of the six named beneficiaries—doesn’t believe the sale ever happened. She said she doubts her uncle would have sold off his prized collection without telling his wife or getting a fair market price for the works. She believes her uncle’s relatives absconded with the art after her aunt died and then produced an elaborate tale to suit their agenda.
Ms. Zaimis filed a civil suit in Greece 15 years ago that has since shifted to Switzerland—because her aunt lived in Lausanne—alleging Mr. Koutsomallis and the foundation inappropriately excluded her aunt’s art assets from her estate. The suit is ongoing. A preliminary investigation into possible fraud is also under way in Liechtenstein, according to the public prosecutor there.
Certain facts seem to support Ms. Zaimis’ version of events. The 83 paintings in dispute remained in Mr. Goulandris’s possession for the rest of his life. He continued to lend them to museums and listed them in exhibit catalogs and artists’ catalogue raisonnés as being part of his and his wife’s collection. According to a paper expert hired by one Swiss prosecutor, the type of paper on which the original contract of sale was printed wasn’t manufactured until three years after Mr. Goulandris allegedly signed it.
Mr. Koutsomallis, the couple’s longtime foundation executive, told Swiss investigators in testimony six years ago that he didn’t know about the alleged $31.7 million sale until years later, and he said, “Admittedly, the agreed price for the artworks is very low.”
A rendering of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum in Athens, Greece
A rendering of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum in Athens, Greece PHOTO: BASIL AND ELISE GOULANDRIS FOUNDATION
Documents leaked as part of the Panama Papers in April may end up having a bearing on the case: They reveal that three paintings put up for auction at Sotheby’s in 2005 by anonymous sellers were actually offered by Mr. Goulandris’s younger sister. The paintings—a Bonnard and two Chagalls—were part of the group of 83 paintings that Basil Goulandris allegedly sold in 1985. If the sale never happened, then Mr. Goulandris’s sister did not have the right to sell them, according to Ms. Zaimis.
Jean-Christophe Diserens, a Swiss lawyer who represents the foundation and Mr. Koutsomallis, said in an email that “nobody but Ms. Zaimis and her sponsors contest the validity” of Mr. Goulandris’s sale of the 83 paintings. Mr. Diserens also said Mr. Koutsomallis, who was also executor of Ms. Goulandris’s estate, “has strictly respected Mrs. Goulandris’s will and the written instructions he had received.”
Evanthea Veroutis-Anastasadi, Ms. Zaimis’s sister, said Thursday she respects her sister’s convictions but feels all their aunt’s art should be located and shipped to the foundation’s museum, not dispersed among family members. “No one is innocent in this situation—and it’s easy to want more and more—but I’ve decided to stay neutral,” Ms. Veroutis-Anastasadi said. “My peace of mind is more important than any collection.”
Three of the other four beneficiaries declined to comment; messages left with one more, and the Swiss lawyer who has represented them all, Jacques Haldy, were not returned. Representatives from Basil Goulandris’s side of the family declined to comment.
Of the 83 masterpieces that sit at the center of this dispute, only a few have even been seen in the past two decades, stoking curiosity about their whereabouts. Of that group, Mr. Koutsomallis, the couple’s art expert, told investigators that he could only pinpoint the location of 29 works because he said the widow had reclaimed them from her husband’s relatives and held them in another foundation called Sirina in Liechtenstein, according to Swiss court documents. But Ms. Zaimis and her lawyer say they don’t think Ms. Goulandris ever arranged for Sirina to own any of her art, including van Gogh’s “The Olive Pickers.” Today, dealers say that painting alone could sell for as much as $200 million.
A GREEK EPIC
When Basil Goulandris was born on the Greek island of Andros in 1913, his family was known for its discretion. Tabloids didn’t follow him around like they did Greece’s other young tycoons like Stavros Niarchos and Aristotle Onassis, who were both a few years older than him.
Mr. Goulandris proved no less ambitious, though. His grandfather, John, and father, Peter, built a business running sailing merchant ships and steamships throughout the Mediterranean. In the postwar economic boom, Mr. Goulandris and his four brothers transformed that firm, Orion Shipping and Trading, into a multibillion-dollar fleet of oceangoing oil tankers and cargo ships.
In 1950, Mr. Goulandris was living in New York when he met and married Elise Karadontis, a young divorcee from Athens. A few months after the ceremony, his eldest brother died of a heart attack. Mr. Goulandris, at age 37, stepped up and ran the firm for decades afterward.
Ms. Zaimis said her aunt and uncle shared a love of art, and the couple started collecting soon after they married, befriending artists like Marc Chagall and buying from galleries in Paris and New York.
They bought seminal pieces for their home like van Gogh’s “Olive Pickers” as well as pieces by significant living artists in Greece like sculptor Michael Tombros, who also hailed from the island of Andros. In 1979, the couple started a foundation and bought a building in Andros’s capital city of Hora to display Tombros’s pieces. They assigned one of their young employees, Mr. Koutsomallis, to help the foundation run their Museum of Contemporary Art.
Pablo Picasso’s 1907 “Dancer of Avignon” once hung at the top of the stairs in the Goulandris home in Gstaad. Its estimated $250 million value derives in part from its evocation of  one of the artist’s masterpiece portraits of primitive-looking prostitutes, “The Ladies of Avignon,” which belongs to New York’s MoMA.
Pablo Picasso’s 1907 “Dancer of Avignon” once hung at the top of the stairs in the Goulandris home in Gstaad. Its estimated $250 million value derives in part from its evocation of one of the artist’s masterpiece portraits of primitive-looking prostitutes, “The Ladies of Avignon,” which belongs to New York’s MoMA. PHOTO: © ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARS, NY
In 1993, the year before Mr. Goulandris died and eight years after he allegedly sold off his best art, he and his wife announced they were going to create an even bigger $30 million museum specifically for their modern art in Athens designed by I.M. Pei. But four years after that, Ms. Goulandris, then widowed, had to go back to the drawing board after Greek archaeologists discovered the proposed museum site was on top of ancient ruins. The Greek culture ministry insisted she find somewhere else to build.
In 1999, Ms. Goulandris displayed in Andros for the first time the cream of her collection, a sumptuous survey of 29 pieces that Mr. Koutsomallis later told investigators she culled from the original group of 83 works and publicly exhibited as belonging to the Goulandris collection. She called the show “The Classics of Modern Art,” and it included van Gogh’s “Olive Pickers” as well as his sunny, large table scene from 1888, “Still Life with Coffee Pot.”
Basil Goulandris’s side of the family has said in court papers that the 29 paintings in the show had been donated to Ms. Goulandris’s Sirina foundation by Wilton Trading. Wilton’s founder Maria Goulandris, who was married to Basil’s older brother, donated the 29 works to Sirina in honor of the museum idea in 1992, according to court testimony by Maria’s son Peter John Goulandris.
Elise Goulandris died on July 25, 2000 at age 82.
Two months later, Ms. Zaimis said Mr. Koutsomallis came to her house and read her aunt’s will, including three pages she had written out by hand in 1997.
In it she distinguished between her assets that could not be moved, like her seven homes, and her “movables” like art, assigning Mr. Koutsomallis to “separate whatever he considers to be antiquarian objects of value that are suitable for a museum. These objects will devolve to the foundation,” she wrote. Everything else, she added, she wanted to go to six beneficiaries on her side of the family—including her sister Marie’s two daughters, Ms. Zaimis and Ms. Veroutis-Anastasadi, who also lives in Greece, and four other cousins.
Mr. Koutsomallis handed Ms. Zaimis an inventory listing Ms. Goulandris’s assets, which included houses and an array of household goods like cutlery. “Where are the valuable things, the paintings?” she said she asked him. That’s when she said she first heard about the sale and how the remaining art had funneled to the foundation.
Ms. Zaimis questioned whether postwar paintings by Jackson Pollock or Francis Bacon could be considered “antiquarian objects,” using the will’s parlance. To her, that phrase referred only to her aunt’s antiquities and antique furniture, not her paintings. Her concerns were dismissed.
She said she tried to talk to her sister and her cousins about the matter, but she said they were spooked by another line in Ms. Goulandris’s will that warned beneficiaries not to object to the decisions made by Mr. Koutsomallis, her estate executor, in divvying her assets. If they did, they could risk forfeiting their right to that contested asset.
She filed a civil lawsuit against him in Greece early the following year, claiming the paintings were wrongfully excluded from her aunt’s estate. The courts there said Switzerland had jurisdiction since Ms. Goulandris lived in Lausanne, so the case shifted to Lausanne.
Ezra Chowaiki
Ezra Chowaiki PHOTO: ROBERT HUBER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Around the same time, Mr. Chowaiki—a dealer in New York known for selling blue-chip paintings by artists like Miró and Lichtenstein—said he got a tantalizing call from a friend who had heard that the Goulandris foundation in Athens was quietly looking to sell one of its masterpieces, van Gogh’s “Olive Pickers” for $70 million. According to the art dealer’s account, a few days before Christmas in 2001, Mr. Chowaiki said he and a billionaire client of his met Mr. Koutsomallis at a storage warehouse in Lausanne, where he entered a small room and saw the painting lying flat on a table, “like an autopsy,” he said.
Over the next few weeks, Mr. Chowaiki said he tried to whittle the price down, but he said the deal allegedly stalled at $55 million and Mr. Chowaiki walked away, disappointed.
The foundation’s lawyer Mr. Diserens disputes this account, saying in an email statement last week that Mr. Koutsomallis never tried to sell the van Gogh to Mr. Chowaiki, whose version of the story he called “pure calumny.”
Mr. Chowaiki said from 2001 on, he was aware of the Goulandris case, and he was pleased when a friend of Ms. Zaimis called him the following year, seeking his help. Mr. Chowaiki was told that Ms. Zaimis was looking for art experts to testify about the foundation’s activities, and she asked him if he might be willing to testify in Greek court about the alleged offer in Lausanne.
The dealer eventually did one better: After speaking with her regularly for nearly a year, he also offered to help pay Ms. Zaimis’s legal fees in exchange for securing first dibs to any paintings she might choose to sell if she won. “Would I have done this had I known what all it would become?” Mr. Chowaiki said later of their pact. “Who knows, but I’ve spent millions at this point, so I’m all in.”
Mr. Chowaiki said it took years before he or Ms. Zaimis could piece together the back story of the alleged $31.7 million sale in 1985. Even now, he said he doesn’t believe it ever happened.
In court proceedings in Lausanne in 2010, Mr. Goulandris’s relatives testified that the shipping mogul agreed to the sale; he had debts and needed cash.
Peter John Goulandris, the nephew on Basil Goulandris’s side and the former chairman of the porcelain maker Waterford Wedgwood, confirmed in court proceedings that he and his older sister Chryss Goulandris had received some of Wilton’s art holdings after their mother died in 2005. Messages left with Peter John Goulandris at the family office at Orion Shipping were not returned.
When Ms. Zaimis was given a chance to read this sale agreement for the first time in 2008 as part of the Swiss court proceedings, she declared the contract a fraud. The allegation of fraud triggered the regional court to launch a concurrent, criminal investigation into the matter. Last year, the Swiss public prosecutor’s office chose not to indict the foundation, citing a lack of evidence of fraud, according to a court clerk for the prosecutor’s office. Ms. Zaimis’s lawyers appealed the decision two months ago. Now, both sides are waiting to see whether the court drops the criminal case, files its own indictment or orders another prosecutor to further investigate. The civil case will continue no matter what, said Ron Soffer, Ms. Zaimis’ lawyer in Paris.
Claude Monet’s 1894 “The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light (in Pink)” is part of one of the impressionist painter’s best-known series of light studies. It once hung beside a similar version in blue that Mr. Goulandris sold and now belongs to the J. Paul Getty MuseumENLARGE
Claude Monet’s 1894 “The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light (in Pink)” is part of one of the impressionist painter’s best-known series of light studies. It once hung beside a similar version in blue that Mr. Goulandris sold and now belongs to the J. Paul Getty Museum 
Three months ago, a report published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which helped break the Panama Papers leak, offered further clues to the fate of three more paintings Basil Goulandris allegedly sold. The report is based on documents leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca that allegedly helped create offshore tax havens for its wealthy clients. (The Wall Street Journal has not independently verified these documents.)​
According to the April 8 report, Mr. Goulandris’s only sister, Marie “Doda” Voridis, was the secret seller of three paintings put up for auction in 2005. It’s unclear exactly how she received them, but the works included a Pierre Bonnard that went unsold in Sotheby’s Feb. 8, 2005 sale in London, as well as a pair of Marc Chagall paintings that sold to anonymous buyers for $2.3 million and $2.5 million in the same auction. Ms. Voridis died last year. In the works’ ownership histories, Sotheby’s lists the works as having been owned by Basil Goulandris.
If these pieces were sold in the mid-1980s, as Mr. Goulandris’s relatives say, it’s unclear how the trio of paintings made it back into the collection of the sister, who decided to sell them five years after Ms. Goulandris died. If they were never sold off during Mr. Goulandris’s lifetime, as his niece alleges, they should have funneled to his widow’s estate.
The whereabouts of the rest remain unknown, at least publicly.
Back in Athens, Ms. Zaimis, who lives half an hour away from the museum site now under construction, says she is monitoring its development. But the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum opening early next year hardly represents checkmate.
“I’m keeping my walls empty until my paintings come home to me,” she said.
Write to Kelly Crow at kelly.crow@wsj.com
TOP