Collector Jose Mugrabi Breaks His Silence Over Christie’s Non-Payment Complaint

He's shocked—shocked!—at the house's treatment.

Jose Mugrabi.
Photo: Patrick McMullan.

Jose Mugrabi has defended himself in a statement to art advisor Josh Baer about a complaint that Christie’s filed against him in court this week.

The auction house says Mugrabi has failed to pay some $32 million on a $37-million canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Mugrabi placed the winning bid on the painting at a blockbuster $658-million sale at the auctioneer’s New York salesroom in May 2015. Christie’s says Mugrabi has paid only the initial $5-million installment.

“This situation arose because a client of ours on whose behalf we bid has yet to pay us,” Mugrabi tells Baer. “We understand that regardless of whether we get paid by him, we are responsible for the ultimate payment of the work which we planned to make in due course.”

The statement appears in the latest installment of the Baer Faxt, Baer’s email newsletter to art-world insiders.

“We hope to resolve this matter within the next few days,” a Christie’s spokesperson told artnet News in an email.

The auction house, for its part, accuses Mugrabi of repeatedly being late to pay. In a letter to him that was included with Christie’s legal complaint, Jen Zatorski, Christie’s president of art departments, says that the non-payment is only the latest instance of such delinquency.

Brett Gorvy.<br>Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.

Brett Gorvy.
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.

Still, Mugrabi professes to be taken aback by the house’s efforts to secure the $32 million, which, according to Christie’s filing, have included a personal visit by Zatorski and Brett Gorvy, Christie’s global head of postwar and contemporary art.

“We are surprised at the aggressive and public way Christie’s has dealt with us as we are one of their largest and most important clients for over 25 years,” he tells Baer. “Christie’s confirms that both sides are working hard to resolve this matter and hope to do so in a matter of days.”

UPDATE: Christie’s released the following joint statement this afternoon: “Christie’s, Jombihis Corporation and the Mugrabi family are very pleased to have reached an agreement in principle to resolve the litigation. We all look forward to continuing our long and fruitful relationship together.”

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