The Scandal Engulfing Dealer Inigo Philbrick Widens Amid New Accusations That He Duped the Buyer of a $12 Million Basquiat

To date, three separate judges have approved requests from three separate plaintiffs to freeze Philbrick's assets.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Humidity (1982).

A British court has ordered a worldwide freeze on the assets of embattled art dealer Inigo Philbrick as claims mount over tens of millions of dollars worth of art that he sold or borrowed against—but allegedly did not own or have the right to sell.

The latest claim, first reported by Bloomberg, involves a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of two crowned figures titled Humidity (1982). Philbrick was accused on October 30 in London’s High Court of misleading a company owned by collector Alexander Pesko, which paid $12.2 million to purchase a share of the painting. (At the time, the full price was listed as $18.4 million, giving the company a 66 percent share.) But now, the company, Satfinance Investment Ltd.,  is crying foul, claiming the painting actually cost $12.5 million, which would have given it a 97 percent share—near total ownership.

Neither Philbrick—who comes from a celebrated art-world family and who got his start at London’s White Cube gallery—nor his attorney responded to Artnet News’s request for comment. But the situation seems to be getting dicier by the day. Bloomberg reports that Philbrick’s Miami attorney, Robert Landon, filed a motion last week seeking to withdraw as counsel because the dealer had “failed to fulfill his obligations.”

Philbrick, who formerly operated galleries in Miami and London, recently shuttered his Miami space. Bloomberg reports that the London gallery was closed on Friday and a sign out front noted the space was for lease.

Inigo Philbrick, Untitled (2012). Image courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

Inigo Philbrick, Image courtesy Patrick McMullan.

To date, three separate judges have approved requests from three separate plaintiffs to freeze Philbrick’s assets. Court filings suggest he could own as much as $70 million in assets personally, as well as $150 million in business assets.

The order requested by Satfinance also reveals just how complicated and layered Philbrick’s financial arrangements became. In addition to Philbrick, the order names “18 Boxwood Green Limited,” a private company registered in Jersey in the UK, as well as Athena Art Finance, a New York-based company that offers art-backed loans.

The order suggests Satfinance and Pesko are scrambling for information about the deals executed on the Basquiat, and even its physical whereabouts. It asks that Athena identify the current location of the painting, and, if it is in transit, to “identify the carrier and the destination to which the painting is to be delivered.” The painting was previously on view at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, where the exhibition “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Made in Japan” closed on November 17.

A representative for Athena declined to comment; Simon Bushnell, the attorney for Satfinance in the UK, did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.

This isn’t the only blow against Philbrick this month. Yet another freezing order was requested on Friday by Singapore investment company LLG, whose managing director Louis Lannoo alleges that Philbrick absconded with a 1988 Donald Judd work that the two purchased together for $1.07 million in 2015, with each agreeing to hold a 50 percent stake. LLG attorney Luke Harris did not respond to a request for comment.

Lannoo became “concerned about Mr. Philbrick’s aggressive approach to investment” in 2017, according to legal filings. Philbrick eventually cut off communication with Lannoo altogether as he sought information about the whereabouts and status of the Judd, the documents allege.

As the claims against Philbrick mount, a familiar pattern is emerging. The dealer is also being pursed by a German art investment company called FAP, which sought and received a freezing injunction in the High Court on November 7. FAP sued Philbrick in early October in Florida, accusing him of breaching their agreement and improperly withholding art worth approximately $14 million.

FAP is seeking the return of  works that it entrusted Philbrick to sell, including two stainless steel works by Donald Judd; a piece by Wade Guyton; two Christopher Wool paintings; a work by Yayoi Kusama that is now on view at the ICA Miami; and two Rudolf Stingel paintings, one of which has become the target of yet another ownership claim by Pesko, the man also working to reclaim the Basquiat.

It is not yet clear if the aforementioned Donald Judd being pursued by LLG is the same object sought by FAP.

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