Beleaguered Billionaire Ronald Perelman Recently Sold $963 Million Worth of Art: Docs

Between 2020 and 2022, the Revlon CEO unloaded pieces by Basquiat, Brancusi, de Kooning, and many more blue-chip names.

Ronald Perelman. Photo: Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

A trove of information about nearly $1 billion worth of art sales made by top collector and Revlon CEO Ronald Perelman has come to light in recently unsealed legal documents from a long-running fight between Perelman and a consortium of insurers over a 2018 fire at his Hamptons mansion.

The news was first reported by Bloomberg, which published a list of individual works and titles, though not prices. In all, the list totaled 71 works by 25 artists that were sold between 2020 and 2022, for a total of $963 million.

Perelman made the art sales after shares of his cosmetics company nosedived. He had reportedly pledged his shares as collateral, and Deutsche Bank, from which he had taken a major loan, demanded repayment.

Representatives for Perelman and a representative for Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

The works sold were by a long roster of modern and contemporary market stalwarts: Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Constantin Brancusi, Willem de Kooning, Günther Förg, Alberto Giacometti, Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Paul Klee, Franz Kline, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol.

An image of Ed Ruscha, Box Smashed Flat in one of the expert analysis reports. Image via Pacer.

An image of Ed Ruscha’s Box Smashed Flat in one of the expert analysis reports about work allegedly damaged in a fire at Perelman’s home. Image via Pacer.

Via his holding companies, Perelman is demanding a $410 million insurance payout for damage that he says was suffered by five blue-chip artworks in a 2018 fire at his Hamptons estate, known as the Creeks. Artnet reported in February on a flurry of filings and accusations from both sides. While fighting over testimony that Perelman gave under oath, each party has asked a New York State Supreme Court justice to rule in its favor without holding a trial. The legal battle has been raging since mid-2020.

The consortium of insurers alleges that Perelman attempted to sell five pieces—a Cy Twombly, two Ed Ruschas, and two Andy Warhols—despite saying under oath that he did not do so. In addition, they allege that he sold two works that were in his house during the fire, casting doubt on his claim that everything on the property was damaged.

As Artnet reported at the time, a filing by Perelman’s team states that the collector is “a busy businessman and an avid art collector” and could not recall all of his art sales. According to the filing, for example, “Between March 10, 2020 and January 10, 2022… he sold 71 pieces of fine art for just under $1 billion.” The new documents would seem to reveal more about those 71 works.

Bloomberg reported that $910 million of the total $963 million in proceeds went to satisfy Perelman’s creditors. Forbes still lists Perelman’s worth, as of the start of May, at $1.9 billion.

According to the report, many of the Perelman artworks were auctioned at Sotheby’s while other pieces were handled in private sales.

According to court papers viewed by Artnet, two works from the Creeks were sold to fellow billionaire art collector Kenneth C. Griffin, who paid an in-person visit to the Creeks in August 2020 with mega-dealer Larry Gagosian, who helped broker the sales. Those works were Brice Marden’s Letter About Rocks #2 and River 4, for $30 million and $9.5 million, respectively.

In a previous filing, insurers highlighted a June 30, 2021, email to Griffin from a Gagosian employee on behalf of the dealer, stating, “I’m really pushing Perelman but he wants $10M. Do you want to try $9.5M to meet him in the middle?” The insurers also stated that Griffin, who has testified in the case, understood all the work at the Creeks to be for sale.

Representatives for Griffin and Gagosian did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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