Manhattan

Grandchildren of Matisse's muse sue National Gallery for reclaim of 'stolen' portrait

The National Gallery in London is being sued by the grandchildren of Matisse’s muse over a painting they claim was stolen from their family in the aftermath of WW II.

The three grandchildren – Oliver Williams, from Kent; his cousin Margaret Green, who lives in East Yorkshire, and a third Germany-based cousin, Iris Filmer – accuse the National Gallery of displaying a painting that rightfully belongs to them.

The trio, through their lawyer, claim that a film last year, Woman In Gold – detailing the struggle of Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren, to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis – shows that such cases are legally sound.

On Wednesday they launched legal proceedings in a federal court in Manhattan, after five years of wrangling over the ownership of the painting. The case was brought in New York because, the plaintiffs argue, the National Gallery has commercial interests in the US and has profited from the work.

The trio want the painting returned, or $30 million in compensation.

The celebrated 1908 oil painting shows their trio’s grandmother, Greta Moll – who sat for Matisse in Paris. Moll’s husband Oskar had bought the painting in 1908, and the couple returned to Germany.

Considered a masterpiece of Matisse’s fauve period, it was deemed so significant that it was shipped to New York for a 1931 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, in Manhattan.But the Nazis were fiercely critical of the Molls’ art work, labelling it degenerate and bourgeois. From 1933 on, Oskar and Greta Moll were prohibited by the Nazis from exhibiting their art in Germany. Articles in newspapers and art reviews defamed them as degenerate and bolshevist artists. They lived in Berlin until 1943, when the city became subject to massive bombing attacks. On their return, after the War, they found to their delight that the painting had survived. But, given the looting and chaos in the aftermath, they accepted an offer from a former student of Oskar Moll, Gertrud Djamarani, to take the painting to Switzerland and leave it with an art dealer for safekeeping. Djamarani, who was preparing to emigrate to Iran, then sold the painting, kept the proceeds, and left for the Middle East, according to the suit.

When Greta Moll died in 1977, she had no idea what had happened to it.

“Unfortunately, because of its refusal to return the portrait to the Moll heirs, the National Gallery has left the Moll family no other choice than to file suit to recover this lost family heirloom.”

From Switzerland, painting was imported to the US in 1949 by Knoedler & Co in New York City – a now defunct gallery, which in February settled a $25 million case for selling a fake Mark Rothko to the chairman of Sotheby’s.

The painting of Moll was then sold to a private collector, Lee Blaffer, in Texas, before being bought by the Lefevre gallery in London - who finally sold it to the National Gallery in 1979.

Gallery sued over US$100K Chiparus fakes

A Manhattan art gallery is being sued for selling inauthentic sculptures by the renowned art deco artist Demétre Chiparus. The cost? Over US$100,000.

Christopher Rouse claims Elliot Stevens gallery attempted to convince him that the statues were made using original molds which was acquired after the sculptor died in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Rouse maintains to have been told that the statues were for sale at a 75% markdown because the gallery owners were retiring. In reality, however, the Romanian sculptor lived and died in Paris, and an expert witness at the trial in a Manhattan federal court testified that the statues were most likely Chinese-made forgeries copied from photographs.

The gallery denies that it mislead Rouse, insisting that his version of events are not true. According to documents, the gallery describes the artworks as having been “cast and carved from an original model by DH Chiparus.”

Elliot Stevens CEO Steven Shalom was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday but was forced to postpone his testimony due to illness. Shalom will testify in October, when the trial continues.

Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer US$31M and his reputation

Alex Komolov, the owner of the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan, is in the midst of a six-year legal battle against his former business colleagues for allegedly selling him more than US$31 million worth of fake art. He’s seeking to recoup his money and restore his name.

Komolov claims David Segal and Mohamed Serry tricked him into buying US$30 million worth of fraudulent Monet, Vlaminck, Picasso and Manet paintings, among other antiques, between 2007 and 2009. Komolov purchased the works through his company High Value Trading and also claims Segal and Serry, owners of Artique Multinational, skipped out on paying US$4.2 million for his New York City condo in 2007.

In a second suit, Komolov is targeting Universe Antiques owner Jack Shaoul for allegedly selling him a fraudulent Renoir painting in 2011 for US$1.2 million.

Manhattan gallery sued over fake Warhol prints

Scandal has rocked the prominent Lower East Side Woodward Gallery as the art dealers now face a lawsuit from an irate former investor.

85 year-old Oregon resident Nira Levine claims the gallery’s owners, John and Kristine Woodward, doctored authenticity documents for 90 Andy Warhol prints from the “Space Fruit” series they sold her in 2008.

Now Levine has filed a suit against them to discover whether the details of her other investments with the gallery, which include stakes in over 50 modern masterpieces, were also falsified, reports the New York Post.

The petition, filed in New York Supreme Court on June 30, stipulates that Levine either purchased the pieces outright or co-owned them with the Woodwards, who then resold them and evenly split the proceeds with Levine.

Long-lost still-life by Gauguin rediscovered in Connecticut

A still-life of flowers by Paul Gauguin—which hung for 30 years in the home of a retired Manhattan antiques dealer, who did not know it was by the artist—has been rediscovered by a Connecticut auction house. Authenticated by the Paris-based Wildenstein Institute, the painting “certainly appears” to be the long-lost still-life Summer Flowers in a Goblet listed in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, says the Gauguin specialist, Sylvie Crussard. The work is now due to be sold on 29 June at Litchfield County Auction, with an estimate of US$800,000 to US$1.2m.

Picasso vase worth US$30K stolen from art gallery

An Owl vase made by Pablo Picasso was swiped from a Manhattan gallery, police said Tuesday. The 10-inch ceramic piece is estimated to be worth about US$30,000. Chelsea’s ACA Gallery noticed that it was gone May 10, but a police report wasn’t filed until Monday.

When you're so rich you don't notice your Picasso is missing

Billionaire socialite Wilma “Billie” Tisch is suing a Florida gallery owner for trying to sell a US$1 million Picasso that was stolen from her Manhattan home — sometime after December 2009, according to court papers.

Tisch, 88, only recently discovered the 1928 portrait of the famed painter’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, was missing.