Giacometti art trove at center of Franco-Swiss legal tussle

ZURICH A rich trove of drawings by Alberto Giacometti and photographs of the renowned sculptor and artist has been lying in sealed storage cartons in a Swiss museum for more than two years due to a legal dispute over their rightful ownership.Swiss prosecutors said they had ordered the seizure of the collection pending a decision by a French court after the Paris-based Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation alleged that the works had been stolen decades ago.The Swiss-born Giacometti, who died in 1966, is one of the best-known sculptors of the 20th century. His "Pointing Man" sold last year at Christie's for $141 million, the largest sum ever for a sculpture.But the legal tussle over a relatively obscure collection of drawings and photos has played out quietly, in lawyers' offices and hushed museum corridors in what Swiss courts call a "prosecution against unknown persons" by French authorities.The Foundation in Paris, home to some 5,000 Giacometti works, the world's largest collection, has not said whom it accuses of theft. Sabine Longin, director of development at the foundation, told Reuters it would speak publicly of the issue only after the ownership battle had been resolved."They have asked us to confiscate the drawings and photographs, which we have done," said Claudio Riedi of the local prosecutors' office in the Swiss town of Chur where the museum holding the drawings and photos is located."Whether there is a separate request for them to be returned is up to the French court."The collection includes 16 Giacometti sketches and 101 photographs of him by famous photographers including Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau covering a period from the 1920s to the 1960s. Though Swiss court documents are heavily redacted -- in no place is Giacometti ever named -- Reuters was able to reconstruct the case by speaking with people familiar with its details."GREAT ART LOVER"The collection was in Giacometti's possession when he died in Chur in 1966, but may have changed hands among family members before finding its way to an unidentified "great art lover" in Switzerland around 1998, according to the Swiss court documents.After learning of the collection in 2009, the Grisons Art Museum in Chur enlisted Remo Stoffel, a local real estate tycoon and patron, to buy it for more than $1 million. Stoffel then loaned it to the facility for 15 years.With the collection's first public exhibition in 2011, however, the foundation in Paris lodged a complaint alleging the works had been "fraudulently stolen," Swiss documents indicate.Since the Swiss police intervened in February 2014, the works have been kept in storage at the museum. A Swiss appeals court two months ago rejected a bid to at least allow the collection to be exhibited, pending a court ruling.On Monday Stoffel confirmed his role as a benefactor to the museum, but declined direct comment on the case. Museum director Stephan Kunz and his predecessor, Beat Stutzer, who organised the original deal with Stoffel that brought the collection to Chur, also declined comment, citing the legal proceedings.Art historians say the collection provides an intimate glimpse into the life of Giacometti and his contemporaries.In one 1946 photo, for instance, Bresson captures Giacometti and his wife descending a staircase to his Parisian studio. Another shows him sculpting in the Swiss village of Stampa in 1964, two years before his death from heart and lung disease.And in a sketch dashed off almost casually on a magazine page, Giacometti offers his rendition of a Picasso nude on the facing page -- art imitating art."It offers a very important documentation of the artist and his private side," said Katharina Ammann, a Swiss art expert who helped produce a catalog of the works that accompanied the 2011 exhibition. "It is also the perfect accompaniment for the few Giacometti works already part of the Grisons museum's collection." (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham dies at 87

NEW YORK Bill Cunningham, the celebrated New York Times fashion photographer known for his shots of emerging trends on the streets of New York City, died on Saturday at age of 87 after being hospitalized for a stroke.Cunningham worked for the New York Times for nearly 40 years, operating "as a dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist," the newspaper said. His photo spreads were a staple of the paper's Style section and chronicled changing fashion through his choice of themes such as swirling skirts, Birkin bags and gaudy floral prints."A lot of people complain about fashion and fast fashion. There is no fashion. That is baloney. Look at this," he said in a video for a recent spread in the paper on the use of black and white contrasts in clothing.Cunningham took pictures of celebrated New Yorkers at swank events and traveled the city by bicycle for decades, often wearing his signature blue jacket, to shoot street fashion typically using a single-lens reflex camera."He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand," the newspaper said. Cunningham, who had tried his hand at hat making, was drafted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After he got out in 1953, he eventually found work as a fashion reporter.In the mid-1960s he acquired a small camera to help him with his work, and that started him off in fashion photography."I had just the most marvelous time with that camera. Everybody I saw I was able to record," he wrote in the Times in 2002. In 2008, the French government awarded him the Legion d’Honneur for his work. A year later, he was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.Cunningham became known to a wider world through an acclaimed 2010 documentary chronicling his career, in which Vogue Magazine editor Anna Wintour quipped: "We all get dressed for Bill."In an obituary in Vogue, editor-at-large Hamish Bowles wrote "his scrupulous editorial standards of both content and comportment were old world." Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher and chairman of the Times, said Cunningham's "company was sought after by the fashion world's rich and powerful, yet he remained one of the kindest, most gentle and humble people I have ever met."His life was one of austerity. He slept on a single size cot where he lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall, chock full of file cabinets containing his negatives.When asked why he spent years ripping up checks for his work from magazines, he said, "Money's the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive," the Times reported. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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Firefighters to battle against flames, dry California weather

Firefighters on Thursday were set to face high temperatures and gusty winds as they battle five large fires burning in drought-stricken California, officials said, though progress allowed authorities to lift some earlier evacuation orders.The National Weather Service issued so-called red flag weather warnings for a tract of southern California for Thursday, including for mountains in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties where wildfires were already burning.California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said the weather conditions could fuel existing blazes or contribute to new fires."We're preparing for what could be another busy day," Berlant said. Authorities on Wednesday lifted evacuation orders on 534 homes in foothills northeast of Los Angeles that had been imposed as firefighters struggled to get control of two wildfires called the San Gabriel Complex. Evacuation orders were still in effect for another 324 homes.As of Wednesday night, the blaze had charred 4,900 acres of chaparral and short grass, and containment lines had been drawn around 15 percent of the flames, according to fire information website InciWeb. To the south, firefighters managed to slow the spread of a massive fire near the Mexican border town of Potrero, prompting officials to lift some evacuation orders there as well. Fire officials said some 200 structures were under threat as of Wednesday night, down from a peak of 1,000.That fire, about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of San Diego, has blackened more than 6,700 acres and was 20 percent contained as of Wednesday night, fire officials said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday said the risk of catastrophic wildfires had increased because of the 66 million trees that had died in California from 2010 to October 2015. Some 26 million of them were in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Alison Williams)

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LeBron and champion Cavs get hero's welcome in Cleveland

A beaming LeBron James returned home to wild celebration on Monday when he stepped off the Cleveland Cavaliers' team plane carrying the long-coveted NBA title he promised to deliver for the city's long-suffering fans.The mere sight of James set off loud cheers from adoring fans who showed up to thank the greatest basketball player on the planet for leading Cleveland past the Golden State Warriors in a decisive seventh game of the NBA Finals on Sunday.The players did not address the crowd but James appeared to take a shot at the Warriors as he disembarked the plane wearing a blue 'Ultimate Warrior' T-Shirt while holding the glittering NBA championship trophy high above his head.The Cavaliers plane touched down at around 12:30 p.m. ET (1630 GMT) and was given a water salute that saw giant arches of spray shoot over the aircraft.The plane then pulled up along a chain-link fence where thousands of fans on the other side, eager for a glimpse of James and his teammates, held up their mobile phones to capture a moment for which many had waited a lifetime.When the door to the plane opened and players started filing out, British rock band Queen's iconic anthem "We Are the Champions" blared through the speakers.Many of the Cavaliers, who made a stop in Las Vegas after winning the title in Oakland, California, hung out on top of the staircase so they could capture overhead video of the crowd before descending the steps to the tarmac. The loudest cheer was reserved for James, who carried the Cavs all season and spearheaded the greatest Finals comeback in NBA history as Cleveland became the first team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit and win the title.In each of the 32 prior instances, the team facing such a deficit had lost the Finals and only two forced a Game Seven.But the Cavaliers kept Golden State's high-powered offense from finding their groove and a dominant James became the first player in NBA history to lead the Finals in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.He was unanimously voted the Most Valuable Player of the Finals after the game. It marked the first NBA title for a long-struggling Cavs franchise and the city of Cleveland's first professional sports championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns of the National Football League.As James walked down the steps of the plane, the crowd showered him with shouts of "M-V-P, M-V-P" before breaking into a "Let's Go Cavs" chant.Traffic was so bad near the airport that many Cavs fans reportedly abandoned their cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic and walked a mile to the hangar.There was also a throng of fans on the street leading up to James's home in Akron, Ohio, many holding "Dreams Come True" signs while passing cars honked their horns. It was reminiscent of the scene two years ago when James announced he was returning to the Cavaliers four years after he left the team to play for the Miami Heat, where he won the first two titles of his storied career."BELIEVE IT!" screamed the front-page headline of The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland on Monday above a full-page photo of a teary-eyed James holding the NBA's championship trophy.Fans will get another chance to salute their Cavaliers as the team will have their championship parade and rally in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday."Oh, my goodness. It's going to be probably one of the biggest parties -- I'm sorry, one of? It's going to be the biggest party that Cleveland has ever seen ever," James told reporters after Sunday's game."So if you guys still have a little money left over in your budget, you guys better make a trip to Cleveland and get a little piece of it." (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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Smash hit 'Hamilton' sweeps Tonys with 11 wins during somber ceremony

NEW YORK "Hamilton", the pop culture phenomenon based on U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton, swept the Tonys on Sunday, winning 11 of Broadway's top awards including best musical, best actor, best direction and best score and book for creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.The musical, which tells the story of the ill-fated Hamilton with a deft musical melding of hip-hop and rap, R&B, ballads and traditional Broadway showstoppers, also won for featured actress and actor and several technical awards.A somber note was cast over the festivities by the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida early on Sunday that killed 50 people and wounded 53. Several winners spoke of the tragedy in their acceptance speeches.Jessica Lange, winning her first Tony as morphine-addicted Mary Tyrone in "Long Day's Journey Into Night, said the honor "fills me with such happiness, even on such a sad day as this."Host James Corden opened the usually ebullient show with a statement to victims and others affected: "Your tragedy is our tragedy ... hate will never win.""Tonight's show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle," he said. Miranda, accepting best score for a musical, delivered a sonnet for his acceptance, done in the style of verse heard in "Hamilton". "Senseless acts of tragedy ... times of hate," he said, his voice breaking as he ended with "love is love is love, cannot be killed." Miranda also won best book of a musical.Backstage, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "No child is ever born to hate."Frank Langella, who won his fourth Tony for best actor in a play as an Alzheimer's-afflicted patriarch in "The Father," said the theater community stood in support."I urge you, Orlando, to be strong," Langella said. "The Humans" won the Tony for best play, while Jayne Houdyshell and Reed Birney were named best featured actress and actor in a play for the family drama. It also won for scenic design."The Color Purple" took best revival of a musical, while star Cynthia Erivo took the Tony for best actress in a musical.Other winners included Ivo van Hove, best director of a play for "A View from the Bridge," which also won best revival of a play.Miranda, who plays Hamilton, lost best actor in a musical to co-star Leslie Odom Jr. as his nemesis Aaron Burr. "God bless you, you've given us a new vision," he told Miranda. Backstage, Odom spoke of the U.S. shootings, saying "something like this happens and all of this seems pretty silly." However, he said at the matinee earlier that the cast realized people who had tickets for months were counting on seeing the show. "We can't let them (the killers) take that away from those people," Odom said."Hamilton" also won awards for Renee Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs as best featured actress and actor in a musical, best director Thomas Kail, and for best lighting, costumes, choreography and orchestrations.But it fell short of the 12 Tony wins by "The Producers" in 2001.Barbra Streisand, making her first Tonys appearance in 40 years, presented the best musical award to the show.In a year when the Oscars drew criticism for lacking non-white nominees, the Tonys, led by the multicultural cast of "Hamilton," stood rich with diversity. Corden joked that the Tonys were "like the Oscars - but with diversity." (Additional reporting by Frank McGurty; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Bill Trott and Michael Perry)

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