Austrian Supreme Court Accuses Franz West Private Foundation Of Embezzlement

The controversy surrounding the legacy of West rages on.

Franz West in 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the ongoing legal feud over the estate of the Austrian artist Franz West, the Austrian Supreme Court has dismissed the board of the Franz West Private Foundation, which currently controls the artist’s estate. The court found that the three person board paid themselves “suspicious” six figure sums in 2012.

According to Austrian daily Der Standard, the board members voted themselves onto the board of “Franz West Werknutzungs GmbH,” a subsidiary company of the Franz West Private Foundation which received payments from the sale of West’s works.

The board subsequently paid themselves salaries totaling over €500,000 ($563,425) over a period of five months. In 2013, the board again made payments of over €800,000 ($901,480) to four “employees.” The Supreme Court ruled that the payments amounted to a self-beneficial business arrangement that shouldn’t have been approved. The court’s judgement, however, is not final.

The motion for the dismissal of the board members was filed by West’s widow Tamuna Sirbiladze before she unexpectedly died in March.

West's widow Tamuna Sirbiladze succumbed to cancer at the age of 44. Photo: video still via Vimeo

West’s widow Tamuna Sirbiladze succumbed to cancer at the age of 44. Photo via Vimeo.

Since West’s death in 2012, the Franz West Archive and the Franz West Private Foundation have laid claim to the artist’s multi-million dollar estate. West founded the Franz West Private Foundation only five days before his death, effectively diverting all royalties, copyrights, and assets away from his family and the non-profit Franz West Archive, which was founded in 2002.

Since the artist’s death, the Archive has been trying to regain control by launching a number of lawsuits against the Foundation and the dealers it works with. According to the artist’s family, West was no longer of sound mind when he founded the Private Foundation.

West is considered one of Austria’s most significant contemporary artists. His influential sculptures, furniture, and design objects fluctuated between art and everyday objects.


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