Gagosian Says Freeport King Yves Bouvier’s Activities Pose ‘Terrible Conflict of Interest’

The ordinarily taciturn megadealer weighs in on the saga.

Larry Gagosian. Courtesy of David Crotty, © Patrick McMullan.
Dmitry Rybolvelv

Dmitry Rybolvelv.
Photo: Courtesy of AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau.

The New York Times published a lengthy, detailed report this morning about the ongoing legal battles between Russian billionaire and art collector Dmitry Rybolovlev and Swiss freeport storage magnate and art dealer Yves Bouvier.

Along with summarizing the international legal battles and barbs that have been thrown back and forth between the two over the past several months, the reporters also scored in-person interviews with Rybolovlev in Monaco (“from his penthouse apartment here overlooking the Mediterranean”) and with Bouvier in Geneva at a steakhouse.

Also notable, and somewhat surprising, is that the ordinarily taciturn megadealer Larry Gagosian weighed in on the saga, opining that Bouvier’s actions as a dealer represent a conflict of interest given his former position as head of the freeport storage facilities, where millionaires and billions stash their high value artworks and objects, tax-free, when needed.

Larry Gagosian. Image:  ©Patrick McMullan. David Crotty/PatrickMcMullan

Larry Gagosian.
©Patrick McMullan. David Crotty/PatrickMcMullan

“I’d consider it a terrible conflict of interest and would never keep art long term in the warehouse of a dealer,” Gagosian told the Times.

“There would be a conflict of interest if Yves Bouvier would have sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev artworks coming from his company Natural Le Coultre. But he didn’t,” Bouvier spokesman Marc Comina told artnet News over email responding to Gagosian’s comments. “None of the artworks sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev were initially stored at Natural Le Coultre facilities. None.”

“Mr. Bouvier has not been charged,” Ron Soffer, a Paris-based attorney for Mr. Bouvier reiterated to artnet News via telephone. “It is only subsequent to the investigation in Paris that the investigating judge will make the decision whether to charge Mr. Bouvier or not.”

Rybolovlev has alleged that Bouvier overcharged him on several deals and also succeeded in temporarily freezing his assets in Singapore. A judge lifted the order in August.

Bouvier and Rybolovlev have publicly squabbled in media reports and legal documents about Bouvier’s role and obligations in several transactions, including whether he is a broker or an independent dealer, and how much information he was required to disclose to Rybolovlev on various art deals.

More recently Bouvier has come under fire for selling two Picasso paintings to Rybolovlev that were later reported stolen from the artist’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay while she kept them in storage. Bouvier appeared before a judge in Paris and was required to pay a hefty fine of $30 million for the paintings.

Rybolovlev’s company Accent Delight emailed statements to artnet News this morning, confirming that it will return the works to Hutin-Blay despite that he bought the works in good faith in 2013 and had no idea they were stolen. According to the statement: “Today, at our initiative, these works are being returned to the Brigade de répression du banditsme (Paris) for the purposes of their investigation.”

Accent Delight “wishes to promote increased transparency and the emergence of stricter rules across the art market in order to ensure that no other victims are subjected to similar experiences in future.”


Related stories:

French Judge Fines Yves Bouvier $30 Million

Yves Bouvier To Be Questioned In Paris Court Over 60 Missing Picassos

Picasso’s Stepdaughter Accuses French Dealer and Yves Bouvier Partner of Theft

Dealer Olivier Thomas Detained in France After Accusations of Theft by Picasso Stepdaughter 

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