An Art Heiress Is Suing to Sell Off Her Family’s Collection Because They Despise Each Other Too Much to Share It

Belinda Neumann owns 60 paintings in common with her sisters and father, but she wants to sell them all.

Melissa Neumann, Hubert Neumann, and Belinda Neumann. Photo by Owen Hoffmann, ©Patrick McMullan.

The latest shot has been fired in a New York family’s increasingly ugly battle over dozens of paintings, including extremely valuable works by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Belinda Neumann-Donnelly is suing her father and two sisters to force the sale of 60 works they jointly own. Together, the trove is worth an estimated $50 million, according to the lawsuit, largely thanks to the collection’s most valuable work, Basquiat’s Untitled (Tyranny), 1982.

Neumann-Donnelly, 52, has been embroiled for months in a legal dispute with her father, Hubert Neumann, 87. The battle began over a different Basquiat work: Flesh and Spirit (1983), which Belinda sold at Sotheby’s in May for $30.7 million. The canvas belonged to Hubert’s wife, Dolores O. Neumann, who, Belinda claimed in legal filings, had explicitly written him out of her will citing decades of physical abuse. (He has denied the accusation.)

The drama began after Belinda inherited the painting upon Dolores’s death in 2016. When she tried to sell it, Hubert moved to stop the sale in court. (He claimed she had covertly convinced her mother to sign over the rights to the work while she was undergoing medical treatment.)

Hubert’s lawsuit was unsuccessful. But after the Basquiat picture sold at auction, Belinda then sued her father in the amount of $100 million, claiming that his claim against her had deterred potential buyers and greatly depressed the painting’s value.

Now, Belinda is taking the fight further, arguing that the family’s entire collection must be liquidated. “Continued joint ownership [of the family’s artwork] is impossible,” she claims in her suit, asking the Manhattan Supreme Court to allow for the works to be sold and the proceeds divided “in accordance with the parties’ respective ownership interests.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat Flesh and Spirit (1982-83). Courtesy Sotheby's.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Flesh and Spirit (1982–83). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The new case also names her two sisters Melissa, 49, and Kristina, 54, as defendants. The majority of the family’s art was given to the three sisters by their uncle, Arthur J. Neumann, in a trust administered by Hubert. That collection includes pieces by Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Vanessa Beecroft, Bruce Conner, Jean Dubuffet, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Joan Miró, and Claes Oldenburg.

The suit also involves two paintings owned by Hubert and his daughters: the aforementioned Basquiat and Sandro Chia’s Confidential Declaration (1981).

Although there are many artworks involved in the case, the suit maintains that they cannot simply be divided among the parties “given the the extremely disparate values of the various works and the acrimony between parties.” The collection must be sold because Belinda “needs the funds to pay her family’s significant housing, litigation, and educational expenses.”

artnet News reached out to Hubert and to Belinda’s lawyers for comment, but had not heard back as of press time.

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