Daily digest: Larry Page’s mansion fire revealed a secret office, a pandemic art heist solved, and more

Furtive Business

Daily digest: Larry Page’s mansion fire revealed a secret office, a pandemic art heist solved, and more

An early Van Gogh painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring that went missing from Singer Laren in Laren. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Good afternoon and welcome back to yet another roundup of the day’s important happenings.

Here’s what you need to know:

After Larry Page’s Palo Alto mansion burned down, neighbors want to know if it was a secret Google office

Google co-founder Larry Page’s massive mansion in Palo Alto, California, caught fire and burned down last Tuesday, September 14, and now neighbors want to know if the building was being used as a secret, unlawful Google office. The $10-million-plus mansion is one of several Page owns in the neighborhood, but a neighbor told Palo Alto Online, who first reported on the blaze, that the building was being used as an office during the day. So far the cause of the three-alarm fire is still under investigation.

H/t to The Daily Beast

DNA evidence leads to arrests in an early pandemic art heist

An arrest has been made in the case of a brazen art heist from the first days of lockdown that captured the internet’s attention. Dutch authorities have apprehended Nils M. (last name withheld under Dutch privacy laws) in connection with a string of art thefts—including a smash-and-grab at the Singer Laren last March where thieves broke in through the front door and made off with Vincent van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884). The 10-by-22-inch painting had been on loan to the small Dutch art museum at the time, but with the building closed during the first wave of COVID lockdowns, no one was around to stop the robbery. Authorities reportedly fingered Nils M. thanks to trace amounts of his DNA left on fragments of the painting’s frame recovered at the scene of the crime. A panel of three judges will weigh in on his fate this Friday (and for other similar art thefts he’s purported to have committed over the last year-and-a-half).

H/t to the New York Times

Gowanus rezoning clears another major hurdle

Yesterday the New York City Planning Commission gave the green light to the 82-block rezoning proposal for the canal-bisected Gowanus section of Brooklyn, one month after Brooklyn Borough President and presumptive future mayor Eric Adams backed the plan. Despite vociferous pushback from local community groups, the proposal will now make its way to the City Council before heading to the Mayor’s desk, though the council’s support is less than certain. Councilmembers Brad Lander and Steve Levin are reportedly withholding support for the plan unless $132 million in funding for local NYCHA repairs comes along with it (also a caveat of Adams’ support).

H/t to The Real Deal

Withdrawals at the Chicago Architecture Biennial after delays and allegations of entitlement

Three artists, all Black women, have withdrawn from the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) only a few days after its September 17 opening, alleging that organizers failed to provide the proper material support and took their participation and labor for granted. The group, In ℅: Black women (ICOBW), composed of Andrea Yarbrough, Ebere Agwuncha, and Chandra Christmas-Rouse, was invited to participate by the 2021 CAB artistic director David Brown to transform an underutilized city-owned lot into a communal gathering space. ICOBW proposed building a skate park, but when informed that the insurance would be too costly for the design fair, scaled back their design but were still met with pushback.

H/t to Hyperallergic

An Emancipation and Freedom Monument touches down in Richmond

Two weeks after the 60-foot-tall monument to Robert E. Lee at the heart of Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue was dismantled, a new monument to the emancipation of the slaves has been unveiled in downtown Richmond. Thomas Jay Warren’s Emancipation and Freedom Monument was dedicated this morning on Brown’s Island, consisting of a 12-foot-tall bronze man and a woman cradling a baby with her other arm raised. Inscribed at the base of the statue are the names and histories of 10 Virginians who fought for freedom prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.

H/t to NPR