Ownership

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.

Portrait of Diana Vreeland stolen from Chelsea Hotel

A painting of the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland by artist Bradley Theodore was taken from the lobby of the Dream Downtown Hotel in New York earlier this week. The thief, who was drinking at the hotel bar, paid his tab at 2:45 am, then grabbed the portrait and absconded. However, at around 7 pm the next day, a parcel containing the painting was delivered to the hotel by an anonymous messenger.

Jeff Koons' Gazing Ball sculpture at centre of legal tussle between art dealers

Lawyers for Blue Art Limited filed an amended complaint Wednesday night  against David Zwirner and his gallery, which Fabrizio Moretti says failed to deliver a work of art he bought for $2m. The new complaint comes after Zwirner’s motion to dismiss named the previously anonymous purchaser and called the lawsuit “a case of buyer’s remorse”. In response, Moretti’s recent court filings reveal the work at the heart of the case—Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden) (2013), from the gallery’s show that year. And while he previously asked for the original purchase price for the work plus fees, Moretti’s updated suit seeks $6m in total damages.

In the new filing, Moretti’s lawyers say Zwirner and the gallery played “a kind of ‘three card monte’ in which the numbered casts of the sculpture”—an edition of three, plus an artist’s proof—“were distributed to their buyers willy-nilly”.

On 24 June 2014, according to the complaint, Moretti made a purchase agreement and soon put down a deposit of $400,000 on edition 2 of 3, his lawyers say. By early 2015, the gallery told Moretti that the sculpture was nearly complete and the collector started paying off what he owed. In April 2015, the work was ready but instead of being delivered to Moretti, it was labelled as edition 3 of 3 and taken to the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s in May, where it carried an estimate of $1.5m to $2.5m—and failed to sell.

On 29 June 2015, the court papers say, Moretti paid the final $200,000 he owed and around that time, another sculpture was completed. This one, however, was labelled edition 1 of 3 and went to another buyer, who still owed the gallery $1.6m. Moretti, faced with a bad art market and a sculpture from a series that had now been unsold at auction, says he still had not received his piece by the time he filed his lawsuit on 4 August this year.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the editions that were made are not the same as the one shown at the Gazing Ball show at David Zwirner Gallery in May 2013, the complaint says. That is now classified as a “prototype” and the dimensions of the sculpture ready for collection by Moretti are different from the object he purchased, the collector says.

Moretti’s amended suit alleges that Zwirner’s dealings violate the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, updated in 1991 to “augment the laws protecting art purchasers from the slippery practices of some art dealers”, according to the court papers, and to outline the information that must be provided to the buyer of a sculpture. Moretti is seeking additional damages because Zwirner violated the law in the vagueness of the purchase agreement and in the editioning, the court documents state. The complaint also accuses the dealer and gallery of breach of contract and fraud, among other charges.

Fake or Fortune couple discover €450 painting is actually worth €100K, but there's a catch

Jan and Chris Starckx purchased what they called The Portrait of a Child at an auction for just €450 back in the 1970s. However, over the years, they began to suspect that they were sat on something rather special. After various trials, which even took the pair to Miami to compare the picture to another genuine Kooning, Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould arrived at the couple’s Belgian home to deliver the good news.

“Well, what we have here is an advantage because we know the other painting went for €50,000,” Philip beamed. “I believe, in many ways, that your picture is superior. The artistic impact, the characterisation of the child, the condition is so good, and you have the name carved into the wet paint, and therefore think it’s worth excess of €50,000. I could see it making up to €100,000.”

However, despite buying the painting over four decades ago, they may not be entitled to own the portrait without being able to clear up who sold the picture to them and why.

Chris explained: “After Miami, we came back and I was contacted by the vendor. He told me the person who left painting died three years ago, and left a lot of money and his belongings to his son. This man, he managed to lose all of his money in a very short time and became homeless. At some point, he was asked to clear his house because he didn’t pay the rent, so he asked two friends to get rid of all his belongings and to sell them.”

Fiona chipped in: “This is really important; the man who owned the painting asked his friends to get rid of it for him? Did he write that down – was there any instructions or anything?”

“The sad fact is, you may not own this picture,” sighed Philip. “If the people who sold it to you did not have the right to sell it, you don’t own it.”

Halidonto's Cyborgs are invading Tagsmart!

image
image

As a Tagsmart Certify artist, Hallidonto now protects his work from being faked or forged and gives his buyers 21st-century peace of mind. Our smart DNA tags attached to his artworks act as a seal of authenticity and our uncopiable physical and digital Certificates of Authenticity provide irrefutable proof of provenance and ownership for his buyers.

Check it out here!

David Nahmad admits ownership of disputed Modigliani painting

After Swiss prosecutors seized a Modigliani painting from storage that the art dealing family the Nahmads denied they owned, Doreen Carvajal reports in the New York Times that dealer David Nahmad has now admitted he is the current owner of the painting, Seated Man with a Cane, but claims that it is not the same work that once belonged to the prewar Jewish art dealer Oscar Stettiner and should not be subject to his heir Philippe Maestracci’s restitution claim.

British doubts over Joan of Arc's ring

The Joan of Arc ring, which was temporarily taken out of the UK in March before an export licence was applied for, may not have belonged to the saint. After being taken to France by its new owner without proper documentation, it was quietly returned to London after pressure was exerted by the British authorities. An export licence was then applied for and was quickly granted, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that the ring had really once belonged to Joan of Arc.

Yves Bouvier pushes to have New York art consultant’s dealings revealed in US court

The New York-based art consultant Sandy Heller has disclosed he was employed by Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire and owner of AS Monaco football club, as an art adviser in February 2015. Heller’s position was revealed in an affidavit he submitted to a US federal court in December following a petition filed by the Swiss freeport magnate, Yves Bouvier, to have Heller questioned about his dealings with the Russian collector. Bouvier is now pushing to have further documents connected to the sale of a painting by Modigliani disclosed.

Battle over $105M Picasso sculpture heats up

The latest filing in the ongoing legal battle between ex-Christie’s Impressionist head Guy Bennett, and power dealer Larry Gagosian exposed further details about the chronology of two competing sales of the same work. It also shines a light on disagreements between Picasso’s heirs about how works in the lucrative, multi-billion-dollar estate are handled and distributed.