Saturday, September 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, September 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawsuit Demands Cut of Picasso Painting Sale Proceeds 

An estate sale firm claims in Florida court that it was stiffed out of its commission on the $23 million sale of a Pablo Picasso painting.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) - An estate sale firm claims in Florida court that it was stiffed out of its commission on the $23 million sale of a Pablo Picasso painting.

Kravit Estate Holdings says it never received its share of the $23 million proceeds after its client's 1938 Picasso painting "Maya au Bateau" was sold through a Sotheby's gallery in Hong Kong.

Kravit takes credit for having the painting exhibited at the gallery during the Face-Off show, which kicked off in mid-March. Sotheby's, not a party to the case, on March 29 confirmed the sale of the painting, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, obtained by Courthouse News from Palm Beach County court, demands $1.15 million, five percent of the sale price.

The Kravit client, Lawrence Saidenberg, is named as the sole defendant as trustee for various Saidenberg family trusts.

According to a Sotheby's provenance, the Picasso painting was passed down from Eleanore Saidenberg, a New York art dealer who represented Picasso for more than a decade. The piece was previously held by Galerie Louise Leiris, the provenance states.

The painting in vibrant hues depicts Picasso's daughter Maya holding a toy boat, with the artist's signature displacement of facial features.

The complaint states that Lawrence Saidenberg's attorney William Pepper enlisted Kravit to help market the piece last year along with two other Picasso works that the Saidenberg family was having trouble selling.

"Defendant desired to sell the collection of Picasso paintings to a private buyer unsuccessfully over the past five years. The collection had been shopped and included in one of the largest art fairs in the world. However it was never sold," the lawsuit claims.

Kravit claims Sotheby's "expressed interest in selling the Picasso paintings following Plaintiff's efforts and based on Plaintiff's cultivation of a relationship with Sotheby's."

The target price for "Maya al Bateau" was purportedly $25 million.

According to the complaint, the contract governing Kravit's commission states that the collection was not to be sold via auction, though exhibition and private sales by auction houses such as Sotheby's were permitted. The contract allegedly dictated that if the painting was sold through an auction house exhibition, the five percent commission was to be paid "directly by [the] auction house."

"Defendant has refused to provide the fee to Plaintiff, or alternatively, instruct Sotheby's to provide the fee," the lawsuit says.

The complaint lists counts for breach of contract and quantum merit. It was filed April 3 and uploaded by the Palm Beach County court clerk Thursday.

As of publication time, Pepper and Sotheby's had not responded to requests for comment.

Categories / Arts, Business, National

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.