Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Deaccessioning as Settlement Tool (UPDATED)

Judith Dobrzynski reports that the National Gallery of Art "has just agreed to transfer the ownership of a painting on view there, Chaim Soutine's Piece of Beef, to the family of a prior owner" in settlement of a lawsuit. The suit "was brought by the estate of Lorette Jolles Shefner of Montreal against the National Gallery and Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, the authors of the Soutine catalogue raisonné, about a year ago. It accused the men of 'tricking her into selling the 1923 painting for $1 million -- below market value -- and then reselling it for twice the amount to the museum in 2004.'"

An NGA spokeswoman tells Dobrzynski in an email that, in return, the museum will receive payment of "more ...than it paid for [the work]." I'm not sure what that means, exactly. I guess one possibility is that everyone agreed to go back to the status quo ante: Tuchman and Dunow return the $2 million (plus a little) to the museum, the estate gives them back their $1 million, and ownership of the painting goes back to the estate (though it has agreed to leave it on view at the NGA "for the near future").

UPDATE: A loyal reader points out, based on first-hand knowledge, that, contrary to the Arts Journal report linked to above, Esti Dunow is a she.