Monday, November 19, 2018

Police Recover Renoir

From today’s NY Times:

Italian police have recovered a Renoir painting that was stolen from a private collection 33 years ago, Agence France-Presse reported. Following a tip from an art critic, Vittorio Sgarbi, who was enlisted to evaluate the work by a gallery owner in the city of Riccone, the police arrested the gallery owner and two other suspects. The oil painting of a nude woman, above, which is valued at $730,000, was stolen from a family in Milan in 1975. It was recovered along with a forgery of a Manet work, which Mr. Sgarbi had also been asked to appraise.


Museum Sues ex-Officer for Embezzlement

The Fruitlands Museum “has taken a series of steps to improve its bookkeeping procedures and is confident it will successfully weather the $1 million embezzlement scheme that officials allege was carried out for seven years by Peggy Kempton, former deputy director and chief financial officer.”

The museum has filed a lawsuit in Worcester Superior Court against Kempton and her children, Bunker Kempton, Kristen Kempton, and Robert Kempton, all of Hollis, N.H.

The suit alleges that Kempton and her children obtained credit cards in the museum’s name and made personal purchases. It also alleges that Kempton used museum funds to pay for personal credit cards; violated her lease by not paying monthly rent for a museum-owned cottage; used Fruitlands funds to pay for utilities at the cottage; and diverted museum funds to her children. The suit alleges that Kempton concealed the financial charges and payments by falsely adjusting Fruitlands’ financial books and records.

The nonprofit museum has an annual budget of $1.2 million. More from the Boston Globe.


Lawyer Knowingly Possessed Stolen Goods

From the Art Newspaper:

A retired Massachusetts lawyer who tried to sell seven stolen pictures worth $30m, which a client had left with him shortly before being shot dead, will be sentenced in November. In August, a federal jury in Boston found Robert Mardirosian guilty of knowingly possessing stolen goods that had crossed a United States boundary. The 1978 theft from collector Michael Bakwin was the largest home burglary in Massachusetts history. Mardirosian, 72, now faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison plus three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.


Degas’ Dancer Two-Steps Back

The New York Post reports today that a NY judge has ordered Degas’ sculpture, “Dancer Looking at Her Right Foot,” to be returned to retired businessman Norman Alexander. Alexander was reportedly conned out of his dance four years ago.

According to the Post:

Alexander, 80, had just suffered a stroke and was in very ill health when he considered selling off his estimated $10 million art collection back in 2004. At the urging of his financial adviser, he gave the Edgar Degas sculpture to a man named Thomas Doyle III to be authenticated. Within 24 hours, Doyle had sold the sculpture for $225,000.


Fifth-Grader Suspended for Wearing anti-Obama T-Shirt

From Dan Slater at the Wall Street Law Blog:

…11-year-old Daxx Dalton…has been suspended for refusing to remove a homemade t-shirt that reads: “Obama is a terrorist’s best friend.” Dalton’s suspension was reportedly for willful disobedience and defiance, not for wearing the shirt.

The response from Dalton — a fifth grader at Aurora Frontier K-8 School who wore the shirt on a day when students were asked to to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue — demonstrated some lawyer promise: “They’re taking away my right of freedom of speech,” he said. “If I have the right to wear this shirt I’m going to use it. And if the only way to use it is get suspended, then I’m going to get suspended.”

E. Christopher Murray, a partner at New York law firm Reisman, Peirez and Reisman and the president of the New York chapter of the Civil Liberties Union, was quoted by the WSJ Blog as saying:

“Students have a constitutional right to express their opinions about politics, and this t-shirt was not vulgar or anything other than a political statement. While the courts have recently cut back on student’s rights of expression, this case clearly seems to be an illegal curtailment of this student’s rights. “


“There is not one document from the foundation purporting to give these gifts…”

From the Cape Breton Post:

New Brunswick’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery is planning a national tour of masterpieces in its collection, including many that are currently at the heart of a bitter and protracted ownership dispute. The principals in the legal tug of war were once again before a judicial panel Monday as the appeal began on an earlier arbitration ruling that gave the bulk of the disputed art treasures to New Brunswick’s provincial art gallery – the Beaverbrook.

At stake are some of the most valuable masterpieces on display anywhere in Canada, including “The Fountain of Indolence,” by British artist J.M.W. Turner, estimated to be worth $25 million, and “Hotel Bedroom” by Lucian Freud, which could fetch at least $5 million.

The Beaverbrook U.K. Foundation, a philanthropic group founded by the press baron, and now run by his grandson, Maxwell Aitken III, claims the works were merely on loan all these years, and now the foundation wants them back.

All of the masterpieces, which include Biotic, Sargents and Hogarths, are estimated to be worth at least $100 million.


Rothko’s Estate, Daughter’s Lawsuit

Last week’s Guardian has a lengthy and moving article on Mark Rothko’s daughter, Kate Rothko Prizel, and her recollection of his suicide and her long legal battle against his estate. Here’s a short excerpt:

Kate and [her brother] Christopher [Rothko] sued the executors of their father’s estate – his accountant, Bernard Reis, the painter Theodoros Stamos, and a professor of anthropology called Morton Levine (Levine was also, until Kate took steps to remedy the situation, Christopher’s guardian) – and his gallery, the Marlborough, claiming that the former had conspired with the latter to ‘waste the assets’ of Rothko’s estate and defraud them of their proper share. The assets were 798 paintings (then estimated to be worth at least $32m). They contended that the three trustees had conspired to sell these Rothkos to the Marlborough at less than their true market value; the gallery had, for instance, got its delighted hands on one group of 100 paintings for just $1.8m, a sum it would pay over 12 years and with no interest, with a down-payment of only $200,000.

The case was to rumble on for more than four years, during which Kate was mostly living in a $90-a-week apartment in Brooklyn, watching what little money she had drain out of her bank account. It was to be seven long years before she had a Rothko of her own; if she wanted to see work by her father, her only option was to visit a gallery.

To everyone’s amazement, Kate and Christopher Rothko won, and the court issued a crushing verdict. The executors were thrown out for ‘improvidence and waste verging on gross negligence’. Reis and Stamos, long-time friends of Mark Rothko, were found to have been in conflict of interest; as executors, they could not negotiate with the Marlborough because the company had both of them on its payroll. All contracts between the Marlborough and the Rothko estate were declared void, and the judge awarded damages of more than $9m against Frank Lloyd, the founder of Marlborough Fine Art, who had laundered art through myriad Liechtenstein holding companies, and the executors.


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