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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Artist’s Assistant Challenges Board Ousting

MANHATTAN (CN) - A former assistant to the late artist Robert Motherwell, a leader of the abstract expressionist movement, claims the president of Motherwell's Dedalus Foundation launched a malicious campaign to strip her of her post as a board member and fire her from the foundation.

According to her lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court, Joan Banach worked closely with Motherwell in his Greenwich, Conn. studio for the last 10 years of his life as "curator, cataloguer, assistant and confidante."

She describes herself as a preeminent source of knowledge about Motherwell and his work. As a result, she claims Motherwell wrote the foundation a letter just before his death, stating that Banach "shall be employed" at the foundation for as long as she wanted.

But that vision was purportedly interrupted by foundation president Jack Flam, "a man with overstated expertise in Motherwell's work, a temper against any who would challenge him, and a desire to promote himself without regard for the legacy of the artist."

Flam allegedly ousted Banach after she objected to his "repeated misjudgments" about the authenticity of works attributed to the artist. "Banach was compelled to challenge these errors to protect the integrity of the artist's legacy," the complaint states. She says she warned Flam that he was exposing the foundation to potentially huge liabilities.

"Motivated by his humiliation, and his desire to silence Banach and eliminate her as an obstacle, Flam chose to abrogate Motherwell's guarantee of lifetime employment for Banach for reasons he refuses to disclose," Banach claims.

She demands reinstatement to the board, back pay and benefits.

Her attorney is Lee Bantle with Bantle & Levy LLP.

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