MANHATTAN (CN) – An art dealer claims that Berry-Hill Galleries sold or traded consigned paintings without handing over the money, and sold it a counterfeit painting George Inness painting for $190,000 and refused its demand for a refund.
624 Art Holdings sued Berry-Hill Galleries, its owners James and Frederick Hill, and R.H. Bluestein & Co. in New York County Court. Art Holdings claims that Bluestein bought one of the paintings without clearing the title.
Art Holdings says that under a 2004 agreement, Berry-Hill was to “oversee and administer the acquisition, display, preservation and sale” of its artwork. “The agreement covered paintings already within the plaintiff’s collection and others which Berry-Hill would come to procure on its behalf.”
Among the paintings covered by the agreement were George Bellows – Jersey Woods; George lnness – Approaching Storm; Worthington Whittredge – Beach Scene, Newport; Charles Sheeler – Meta-Mold; and Edmund Tarbell – Mrs. Tarbell at Evening, according to the complaint.
Art Holdings says that under the agreement, if Berry-Hill wished to transfer a painting, the receiver had to acknowledge that the painting belonged solely to Art Holdings. If Berry-Hill sold one of Art Holding’s pieces, the title “was to pass only from AHL directly to the buyer,” and all proceeds must be paid directly to Art Holdings, according to the complaint.
Art Holdings says that when it showed up at Berry-Hill to retrieve one of its pieces early last year, it found that the works by Sheeler, Whittredge and Tarbell were not there.
Art Holdings says it learned that Berry-Hill had sold the Whittredge painting to Michigan gallery R.H. Bluestein, which “took custody of the painting without having obtained genuine title or other truthful incidence of ownership to it.”
Berry-Hill had given the Scheeler work to someone in exchange for another painting and cash, Art Holdings says.
Berry-Hill had traded the Tarbell painting for “a painting of far less face value,” and pocketed cash paid for the difference, Art Holdings claims.
And it claims that Berry-Hill did not pay it any money for the sale or exchange of its pieces.
Art Holdings adds that it discovered in 2010 that the Inness painting that James and Frederick Hill had sold it for $190,000 had been appraised by Sotheby’s as a counterfeit.
Art Holdings claims the defendants have ignored its demands for the return of the Sheeler work, and for the money it paid for the allegedly counterfeit Inness.
Art Holdings wants its paintings back and more than $2.1 million and punitive damages for breach of contract, conversion, tortious interference and fraud.
Art Holdings is represented by Sam Israel.