Dealer Sued Over Missing Degas Statue

Luke Brugnara at the Silver City Casino, Las Vegas, June 2003. Via Luke Brugnara, Facebook.

Tennessee dealer Rose Ramey Long, who brokered a deal to sell $11 million worth of art to convicted felon Luke Brugnara, has been sued by two Manhattan dealers over a missing Degas sculpture reportedly valued at $3 million. artnet News reported related details of this case late last month, including a delivery made to Brugnara in San Francisco that included 16 Willem de Kooning paintings valued at $7.3 million, the Degas Little 14-Year Old Dancer sculpture, a Miro drawing valued at $160,00 and a group of Picasso etchings valued at $145,000. Long remitted a down payment of $110,000.

Brugnara was previously convicted of tax evasion and trout poaching. He has been charged with mail fraud in connection to the aborted sales, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Manhattan dealers The Degas Sculpture Project and Modernism Fine Art have sued Long claiming she is responsible for a missing Degas. According to Courthouse News Service, Long vetted the pieces earlier this year and indicated that she intended to resell them to a California collector. In order “to protect the integrity” of the works, the plaintiffs say, they restrict their private sales to collectors who vow to donate the works to reputable museums. Long specifically stated that her “notable end client” planned to open a new museum in San Francisco, they claim. They agreed to sell the artworks at a 10 percent discount as a result, though the total purchase amount is redacted in the lawsuit.

Long resold the art to a customer other than the one disclosed, they say. The actual buyer, Brugnara, is a “recently released from custody, twice convicted, federal felon with a history of fraudulent conduct and no source of current income or tangible assets.” After accompanying the shipment to San Francisco, Long became suspicious when she arrived at a house that was completely empty, aside from two chairs.

The plaintiffs say Long has failed to pay the contract price or return the paintings, they state. Presumably the rest of the art was returned as only the Degas is mentioned in the suit.  Courthouse News says the crates of art were opened on June 5. One that remains missing contains the Degas Little Dancer. (Or, as the Daily News opened their story, “Their Degas is de-gone.”)

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