Gallery Files Lawsuit Against Agnes Martin Authentication Committee

Their case implies malice.

Alexander Liberman, Agnes Martin with Level and Ladder (1960). Photography Archive, Getty Research Institute. Photo ©J. Paul Getty Trust.

London’s Mayor Gallery has filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against the authentication committee for the catalogue raisonné of Canadian Abstract Expressionist and Minimalist artist Agnes Martin’s over 13 works the gallery has sold that the estate refuses to include. The gallery alleges this has cost it $7.2 million.

The lawsuit, which was filed on October 17, also names Pace Gallery founder Arne Glimcher.

The complaint claims that the authentication committee has unlawfully declared the works fakes by excluding them from the catalogue raisonné, thus rendering them valueless.

Agnes Martin, Friendship (1963). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Courtesy of the Tate Modern.

Agnes Martin, Friendship (1963). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Courtesy of the Tate Modern.

One example given in the complaint is that of Day & Night (1961-64) purchased by investment banker Jack Levy for $2.9 million in 2010, which was rejected when Levy submitted it to the authentication committee on hearing of their compiling a catalogue raisonné for Martin’s work in 2014. Levy then returned the work to Mayor Gallery asking for a refund for the sale price plus $288,438 in sales tax.

Mayor Gallery, now the owner of Night & Day, is claiming that the Examination Agreement submitted by Levy contains errors and flaws in the provenance list. It then says the gallery submitted a corrected version, alongside photographs of Martin with the work, which was presented to Tiffany Bell of the committee, and again rejected.

The complaint goes on to detail how James Mayor of Mayor Gallery pressed Bell for names of the authentication committee and discovered that one member was Arne Glimcher of Pace gallery. As Pace represents Martin’s estate, and Glimcher set up the Agnes Martin Foundation which is run by him and his son, Mayor is claiming this constitutes a conflict of interest. He also states that he and Glimcher do not get along and this may have affected the committee’s decision.

The complaint details how submissions to the catalogue raisonné by Patricia and Frank Kolodny for Untitled, bought from Mayor Gallery for $240,000 in 2009; Sybil Shainwald, who bought a work on paper from the gallery for $180,000 in 2012; and Pierre de Labouchere, who purchased ten works from the gallery, were all rejected.

Mayor Gallery has refunded all of these purchases, apart from the ten works bought by Labouchere, who has said he will wait for the outcome of the lawsuit before asking for his money back.

The complaint accuses the authentication committee of “Tortious Interference with Prospective Business Relations,” implying theses rejections were made out of malice.

Non-profit foundations for artists, such as the Calder and Warhol Foundation for example, no longer take part in authenticating works to avoid lawsuits like these being taken out against them, which although are rarely won, can be lengthy and costly.

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