Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"It seems that neither diamonds nor fine art are truly forever"

The International Herald Tribune has a lengthy story on the Ralph Esmerian saga. It's mostly about the $187 million he owes Merrill Lynch for financing his purchase of the Fred Leighton jewelry company, but also touches on his troubles with Christie's and Sotheby's:

"Some of the paintings Esmerian gave to the American Folk Art Museum were outright gifts, and some were merely promised as gifts, with the understanding that they were being used as collateral on a loan from Sotheby's. A few weeks ago the museum was forced to take down one of its greatest prizes from Esmerian's painting collection, a mid-1800's masterpiece from Edward Hicks's 'Peaceable Kingdom' series that had hung at the museum since its West 53rd Street building opened in 2001. The painting was sent to Sotheby's, where it is estimated to fetch up to $8 million, which will be applied to Esmerian's $11.5 million debt. Although a promise is only a promise, the museum was taken by surprise. 'We didn't know about Ralph's problems,' said Susan Flamm, a spokeswoman."