Global Modern-Art Wrangle Hits NYC Court

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Paintings by legendary modern artists like Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, René Magritte and others worth more than $10.8 million were sold without permission by a Big Apple art dealer, a New Zealand collector alleges.
     In a federal lawsuit, Kiwi collector Stephanie Overton seeks to recover works by some of the most recognized artists of the 20th century.
     The paintings include Picasso’s “Buste de Femme,” Chagall’s “Reverie,” Magritte’s “La Geante,” Modigliani’s “Caryaide,” Raoul Dufy’s “Syracuse,” Lucio Fontana’s “Concetto Spaziale, Aattese,” Henry Moore’s “Reclining Nude,” and Tom Wesselmann’s “Collage Study for the Mouth, No. 10.”
     Eight New York-based art companies allegedly bought the works that they should have known were improperly offered for sale by non-party Timothy Sammons, Inc., an Upper East Side fine-art agency, according to the lawsuit.
     “The actions of TSI are of such a grave nature that they have already resulted in the issuance of a freezing injunction from the United Kingdom’s High Court of Justice, freezing the assets of TSI and Sammons, and requiring Sammons to turn his passport over to the court,” the 21-page complaint states.
     Earlier this month, the British court froze up to 7 million British pounds – $10.8 million – in TSI’s assets, the order attached to the complaint indicates.
     Overton says that the art groups that bought her paintings took advantage of the financial difficulties that TSI started experiencing around two years ago.
     “At no time was TSI was ever authorized to complete a sale for any or all of the works,” the complaint states.
     The companies involved in these sales include Art Finance Partners, LLC; AF Funding, LLC; Knickerbocker Funding, LLC; Skarstedt Fine Art, Ltd.; Skarstedt Gallery, Ltd.; David Tunick, Inc.; and Scott Gerson Conservation, LLC, the complaint states.
     Though she “has sought the return of the works from [these] defendants,” Overton “has been stonewalled in her efforts to determine the current locations of the works and if any of the defendants have attempted to transfer title to the works to other third parties,” according to the complaint.
     “Defendants were not buyers in good faith and were not buyers in the ordinary course of business and, as such, defendants did not acquire any right, title or interest in any of the works,” the complaint states.
     Overton demands “well in excess of $1 million” in punitive damages for three counts of replevin, conversion and aiding and abetting the breach of fiduciary duty.
     She is represented by John Cahill of the Manhattan-based firm Cahill Partners LLP.

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