MANHATTAN (CN) - Art dealer Julian Weissman passed off a "worthless picture" as Robert Motherwell's "Spanish Elegy," a collector claims in a $3 million demand in court.
Dar Noor Limited, individually and as assignee for MJAS General Trading Co., sued Julian Weissman and Julian Weissman Fine Art in New York County Supreme Court.
Motherwell (1915-1991) was a leading American Abstract Expressionist.
"His paintings, collages, drawings and prints are represented in collections of museums throughout the world," the complaint states. "His work is characterized by a broad range of imagery, within which there are certain recurrent themes and motifs, as exemplified in the monumental series known as 'Elegies to the Spanish Republic.'"
Dar Noor Ltd., a British Virgin Islands corporation, is owned in trust for the children of Sheikha Paula Al-Sabah, of Kuwait.
The sheikha claims that she flew from Kuwait to Weissman's Lower Manhattan gallery in 2004 to see what she believed to be a painting from Motherwell's Elegy series.
Weissman told her the work at issue came from an anonymous Swiss-Jewish owner, whose father bought it from Motherwell directly, according to the complaint.
Al-Sabah says she bought the work through Dar Noor and its assignee, MJAS General Trading.
The companies are listed as plaintiffs; Al-Sabah is not.
Seven years later, Al-Sabah says, she found out painting actually came from (nonparty) Glafira Rosales, a Long Island art dealer implicated in three federal lawsuits against the Knoedler Gallery.
Knoedler, which is not a party to this complaint, closed after 165 years amid allegations that it sold Rosales-supplied forgeries purporting to be originals by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothkoand Jackson Pollock. (Click on links for Courthouse News stories.)
The FBI is believed to be investigating Rosales about 20 such works.
According to the sheikha's complaint, Weissman once worked as a salesman at the Knoedler Gallery.
"From 2001-2007, Weissman sold several works from the Rosales Collection to other art collectors," the complaint states.
"Contrary to its representations, Weissman in fact had no relationship whatsoever with - nor any firsthand knowledge of - any Swiss-Jewish collector who purportedly had purchased the painting from Motherwell, nor with any son of any such collector who purportedly had inherited and was selling the painting.
"Weissman made no effort to investigate Rosales or her implausible story about the painting's provenance."
The plaintiffs demand $3 million in damages for fraud.
They are represented by Daniel Weiner with Hughes Hubbard & Reed.