Why did 'Michelangelo Models' cost Canadians millions in tax credits?


It was a time of intrigue and high stakes when the art historian and the curator were asked to examine some exquisite pieces of art, terracotta models of sculptures, the expectation being ... they'd been created by Michelangelo himself. They ended up in the Vancouver Museum but if they come with a History ... they also carry the burden of greed, betrayal, warring brothers, questionable accounting and perhaps mistaken identity. Today, CBC's Jason Proctor brings us a story of great expectations and possible artistic inflation.

CBC Reporter, Jason Proctor

As the Chair of Sotheby's Europe, Henry Wyndham had reason to celebrate last month, when an auction of Old Master Paintings and Sculptures brought in more than 58-million-dollars.

But there was one lot that didn't sell -- a collection of nine Renaissance-era terra cotta models owned by the Vancouver Museum. Sotheby's estimated their value at between two and three-hundred-thousand dollars ... a tidy sum to be sure, but a far cry from the 30-million-dollars in tax receipts that Canadians gave out to the people who donated them to the museum.

The massive discrepancy raises questions about what these so-called Michelangelo Models are really worth.

CBC Reporter Jason Proctor has been delving into the story and he joined us from Vancouver.

Letters: Polar Bears

Yesterday on The Current, we opened up the debate about a controversial proposal that would see humans feeding polar bears, as a last resort, in order to keep their populations from declining.

Corinne Brett from Glovertown, Newfoundland wrote:

Anyone who has any basic knowledge and/or concern about Canadian wildlife knows that "a fed bear is a dead bear". Nature will take care of itself if humans would only do one simple thing: stop the destruction of habitat.

Matthew C of Ottawa wrote in with his thoughts:

The question of 'ethics' in the feeding of wild animals to ensure their survival into the future is moot. Ethics would be more appropriately examined in the unrestrained human contribution to carbon emissions that has potentially put the creatures on this path to possible extinction. If there is a value to ensuring their existence (and this can be a sensitive topic) then the only issue here is money ... nothing else. We have capability and the commitment. When I hear that 50 Billion dollars will be spent on an Olympics, that quite frankly we do not need, the human effort to secure the possible extinction of a wild species, seems a most noble effort.

And finally, Norman Huard from Trois-Rivieres wrote in to tell us this:

Whoa! Wait a minute. What about all the HUMAN children that don't live beyond the age of five due to malnutrition? Are we that screwed up as a species that we will start to think of feeding fellow humans only when extinction threatens us?

Thanks as always for all your thoughts. If there's anything you'd like to tell us about what you hear on the program, we'd love to hear it. Call us at 1-877-287-7366. Follow us on Twitter, where we are @thecurrentcbc. Find us on Facebook. Or e-mail us through our web site. And you can always download the podcast from our main page of the website too.

Other segments from today's show:

Canada's Economic Action Plan ad campaign: Prosperity or propaganda?

Phiona Mutesi: Teen Ugandan Chess Prodigy

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