Art Foundation in Puerto Rico was Raided


US and French authorities raided Tuesday, April 11th, the offices of the Michèle Vasarely Foundation in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, dedicated to the work of the late French-Hungarian painter Victor Vasarely.

FBI agents loaded dozens of paintings worth more than $40 million. The paintings belonged to artists Victor Vasarhelyi, who changed his last name to Vasarely, and his son Jean Pierre Vasarely, better known as Yvaral. The Michèle Vasarely Foundation, located at the historic Colegio de Párvulos in Old San Juan, served to preserve the works of artist Victor Vasarely and Yvaral. The more than 100 pieces of art reportedly seized by authorities were owned by Michèle Taburno Vasarely, Yvaral’s second wife, who has lived in Puerto Rico for a little over a decade.

Vasarely’s and Yvaral’s art has long been involved in a legal battle between Taburno Visarely and Pierre, Yvaral’s son from his first marriage, who both have made claims to hundreds of works of art. Pierre has managed the Vasarely Foundation, headquartered in Aix-en Provence in southern France, alongside his two sons since 2009.
“What I wish is for my stepmother to execute the judiciary ruling,” Pierre told The Art Newspaper in late 2022. “It is not me; it’s not anyone else; it’s the French justice system, who are asking a French person who lives abroad to return expert works to France.”

An FBI spokesperson in Puerto Rico, Limary Cruz Rubio, did not comment on the details of the investigation, however, she confirmed that the FBI was aiding French authorities in the seizure. The raid was carried out under the order of a French judge, with assistance from the FBI.

Michèle Vasarely had been fined in 2018 by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP) for illegally removing some stained glass windows from the old building of the Colegio de Párvulos. Victor Vasarely is considered by many to be the “grandfather” of optical art after painting his seminal work Zebras in 1937.