Rauschenberg Foundation Dispute May Soon Be Resolved

Robert Rauschenberg with his tongue stamped “Wedding Souvenir, Claes Oldenburg” at Oldenburg's wedding (1966). Photo: Dennis Hopper, via grey not grey.
Robert Rauschenberg with his tongue stamped “Wedding Souvenir, Claes Oldenburg” at Oldenburg's wedding (1966).
Photo: Dennis Hopper, via grey not grey.

The drawn-out legal battle surrounding the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation is nearly over, reports the Art Newspaper. Three trustees of the Robert Rauschenberg Revocable Trust are hoping to be awarded $60 million in return for their administrative services, while the Foundation believes a mere $375,000 would be a more appropriate amount.

The feud, brewing since 2011, finally came to trial before a Florida judge this month. Not long before his passing in 2008, Rauschenberg entrusted three close friends to run his estate: his accountant, Bennet Grutman; his partner and will executor, Darryl Pottorf; and Bill Goldston, his partner at a fine art print publishing company. The trust was set up as a means of distributing the estate’s assets to its beneficiaries, primarily the foundation.

Since the artist’s death, the trustees argued, they have helped considerably increase the value of the estate and its 7,000-plus artworks. Now, they want fair payment for such “extraordinary services.” Previously, the three already paid themselves $1.9 million each.

The true current value of the estate is a matter of debate. The trustees claims it has increased from $600 million to $2.2 billion since 2008. According to Bloomberg News, however, the value was placed at $326 million in 2012 when the assets were transferred from the trust to the foundation, which currently holds a $1.6 billion insurance policy on the estate. The artist’s son and foundation’s president, Christopher Rauschenberg, claims that this is a temporary estimate and the policy will likely be under $550 million when renewed next year.

There is no nationwide standard for trustee payments. In New York, they are usually entitled to a percentage of certain assets, while in Florida, where Rauschenberg lived, trustees are awarded a “reasonable fee.” Judge Jay Rosman of Lee County Circuit Court, having heard arguments from all parties, is expected to issue a ruling on the case in the near future.

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