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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Iceland stun England as Euro dream continues

NICE, France Iceland pulled off one of the biggest shocks in European Championship history when they stunned abject England 2-1 on Monday, leading Roy Hodgson to quit and sending the tiny nation into a quarter-final against hosts France. Although the soccer pedigrees of the two countries could not be more different, Iceland looked the better team in just about every aspect of the game and fully deserved to extend their dream run on their first tournament appearance.After falling behind to a fourth-minute Wayne Rooney penalty they levelled almost immediately through Ragnar Sigurdsson and struck again in the 18th with a shot by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.A ponderous England never looked remotely capable of finding a way back into the game and even at the end when they were reduced to launching long balls into the box, Iceland dealt with everything comfortably.“It feels fantastic to come here as an underdog and perform in this way," said Iceland joint-coach Lars Lagerback, who also claimed two wins and four draws against England in his days as Sweden manager.Pundits were quick to rank England's defeat alongside that against the amateurs of the United States in the 1950 World Cup but such a judgement conveniently overlooks the progress the Icelanders have made in recent seasons, not least in beating the Netherlands home and away to get to France in the first place.It also fails to take into account England's miserable European Championship record, where they have won only one knockout match, on penalties at home to Spain in 1996.Hodgson, who steered the team to 10 straight wins in qualifying, duly became the latest in a long line of England managers to fall on his sword after a failure to get to the business end when it really matters."Now is the time for someone else to oversee the progress of a hungry and extremely talented group of players," Hodgson said, reading a prepared statement. "They have done fantastically, and done everything asked of them," he added in a bizarre account of yet another failure to perform at a major tournament.Hodgson, 68, then refused to take further questionsSHORT LEAD It all looked so different for England at the start when Raheem Sterling was hauled down by keeper Hannes Halldorsson, allowing Rooney to smash them ahead from the penalty spot on his 115th appearance, matching David Beckham's outfield record.The lead lasted less than two minutes, though, as Iceland, scored via an Aron Gunnarsson long throw, just as they had predicted. It was flicked on by Kari Arnason to an unmarked Ragnar Sigurdsson to sweep home.If England's defending was bad for that goal it was disastrous for the second as Iceland were allowed time and space on the edge of the box to set up Sigthorsson for a low shot that Joe Hart should have saved but merely took the power off as it rolled over the line.England looked shell-shocked and spent the rest of the half struggling to make any inroads, their front men and attacking midfielders static, and were booed off by their own fans.England threw on midfielder Jack Wilshere for the second half and then striker Jamie Vardy but the team's passing was awful and their movement sluggish. Harry Kane, the Premier League's leading scorer last season, summed up the poor quality on show when he took three free kicks and launched each one high into the stands without a team mate even close to connecting with the ball. The final whistle produced extraordinary scenes as the entire Iceland squad and coaches sprinted to the corner of the pitch to celebrate ecstatically with their fans.They can now look forward to facing France with the prize for the winner being a semi-final against Germany or Italy."Everyone started to run towards the fans so I did that too and then I flipped out completely," said Ragnar Sigurdsson."This is the biggest thing everyone in the squad has experienced. I don’t know how big it is, but it’s damn big."In contrast England's players sank to the turf in despair, with a deluge of jeers, boos and whistles raining down from the fans all around them, finally being encouraged to leave the pitch to a chant of "You're not fit to wear the shirt." (Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Sixers take Australian Simmons with first pick of NBA Draft

NEW YORK The Philadelphia 76ers added to their youthful core with a versatile big man by taking Australian Ben Simmons from Louisiana State University with the first overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday.The 19-year-old forward, an excellent rebounder who is good in transition as a scorer or passer, joins a Philadelphia team that finished last overall with a 10-71 record during the NBA's 2015-16 season.Simmons, the first Australian to be taken with the top pick since the Utah Jazz selected Andrew Bogut in 2005, averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for LSU in his only college season."It's a weight off my chest," said the 6-10, 245-pound Simmons, who was widely expected to go first overall."I've been looking forward to this day for a while, so I'm glad I've made history, not only for myself but my family and Australian basketball." The Los Angeles Lakers followed with the second pick, the first choice in their post-Kobe Bryant era, and took shooting guard Brandon Ingram from Duke University.Ingram, a good passer and excellent three-point shooter with great court awareness, is a slender 6-9 and scored 17.3 points a game for Duke along with 6.8 rebounds on average.Asked about concerns that he needed to bulk up to compete in the NBA, Ingram said: "I am only 18. The weight is going to come naturally. But I am focused on getting stronger right now. "I have the inner strength that no one knows about and I am just continuing to get stronger each and every day."The Boston Celtics chose small forward Jaylen Brown of California third overall, while the Phoenix Suns used the fourth pick on Croatian power forward Dragen Bender, a 7-footer who has been playing for Ironi Ramat Gan in Israel.The Minnesota Timberwolves, who have four players under the age of 23 logging heavy minutes, used the fifth pick to take point guard Kris Dunn of Providence. The New Orleans Pelicans made shooting guard Buddy Hield of Oklahoma the sixth pick before the Denver Nuggets took Canadian Jamal Murray, who averaged 20 points for Kentucky, at No. 7.Taken eighth by the Sacramento Kings was Marquese Chriss, a forward from Washington, with Austrian Jakob Poelti, a center from Utah, going ninth to the Toronto Raptors.Rounding out the top 10 was Sudanese-Australian 7-footer Thon Maker, who has been playing at Canada's Athlete Institute and was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Jewelry, sneakers and lots of paper towels at 'Whitey' Bulger auction

BOSTON Some of former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger's preferences were made well known during the years he ruled the city's underworld: He didn't like snitches and expected absolute obedience from members of his gang.He also expected consistency in his footwear, judging by a catalog for a U.S. Marshals auction of his property set for next week in Boston.The items up for auction include four unworn pairs of men's Asics sneakers, size 9.5, and five packs of cushioned insoles, according to an auction catalog released on Thursday. The auction is intended to raise money for the families of the 11 people he was convicted of murdering or ordering killed in the 1970s and '80s when he ran Boston's "Winter Hill" crime gang. Bulger, now 86, fled Boston in 1994 on a tip from a corrupt FBI agent that arrest was imminent and spent 16 years on the lam with his girlfriend Catherine Greig, now 65, before the FBI caught up with them in a seaside apartment in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.The auction includes a mix of valuable items including a replica Stanley Cup ring, a yellow gold Claddagh ring and appropriately, given the outcome of his trial, a sterling silver "Psycho Killer Ring." It also includes more mundane items seized at the apartment, such as clothing, kitchen items and 30 rolls of paper towels. It seems the man found guilty of hiding bodies in the dirt-floored basement of a South Boston home appreciated the importance of cleaning up after himself. (Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Obama to take his family to Carlsbad Caverns, Yosemite next week

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama will have the chance to see the stalactites and bats of Carlsbad Caverns and the giant sequoias in Yosemite next weekend when he takes his family to two famous U.S. national parks.The July 17-19 trip to New Mexico and California is a way for Obama to promote his environmental track record during his time in office, while also spending time with his teen daughters, Malia and Sasha."I want to make sure that the American people are able to enjoy the incredible national parks, the incredible beauty, the mountains, the oceans, that have been one of the greatest gifts that we've ever received," Obama said in a preview of his trip posted on Facebook."I want to make sure that the whole world is able to pass on to future generations the God-given beauty of this planet," he said. Obama has worked to cement his legacy on environmental protections as the end of his time in office draws nearer.The White House said that he has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters and historic sites with new parks, monuments and restrictions for development - more than any other president. To mark the centennial of the national parks system in 2016, Obama launched a plan to give all fourth grade students and their families free access to visit national parks.Obama took his daughters to visit the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon in 2009 and Acadia National Park in Maine in 2010. Last August, he hiked on a glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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