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That Auctioned Rothko Painting with the Dallas Lawsuit Attached … ?


by Jerome Weeks 14 May 2010

… the one whose earlier sale Dallas collector Marguerite Hoffman wants to rescind? Its sale at Sotheby’s for $31 million Wednesday was the capper to what may have been a landmark week in modern and contemporary art auctions, sez the NYTimes: May 2010 might come to be remembered as the month when postwar and contemporary […]

CTA TBD

1265038808-red8dec2009four… the one whose earlier sale Dallas collector Marguerite Hoffman wants to rescind? Its sale at Sotheby’s for $31 million Wednesday was the capper to what may have been a landmark week in modern and contemporary art auctions, sez the NYTimes:

May 2010 might come to be remembered as the month when postwar and contemporary art became fully integrated into the broader art market.

Or to re-state that more confusingly:

This week, contemporary art reached a new plateau. With a constituency that has probably grown tenfold in the last few years, it is set on a new course that may be as promising as it is fraught with risk. Here, more hinges on words than on what the eye sees. As long as the discourse carries conviction, everything will be fine.

In any event: Won’t all this local connection really make an area theater want to stage the Texas premiere of this? (Alfred Molina, right, as Mark Rothko.) My vote for a North Texas actor to fill Molina’s shoes? This guy.

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  • Council for Artists Rights

    In 2007 the Dallas Museum of Art mounted an exhibition titled “Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art” featuring some of the $400 million in promised gifts of artwork donated to the museum by Dallas residents. In conjunction with the exhibit, the DMA published a catalogue (actually it should be called a book, for it is much too large to be classified as a catalogue) with the same name. On page 4 a simple and clear statement is made, “…unless otherwise noted, all works illustrated in this catalogue are either partial or promised gifts to the Dallas Museum of Art or are currently in the permanent collection.” Further, on page 21 the museum’s own director states, “The grand utterly transforming moment came in 2005 when the Hoffmans, Rachofskys and Roses joined to commit to the Museum by IRREVOCABLE (emphasis mine) bequest their entire collections…”

    It is virtually unheard of for a modern day not-for-profit U.S. art museum to have a policy whereby it accepts promises of donated works of art into its permanent collection and, soon after, completely reverses itself and permits those same works to be sold by the promising donor to a private buyer for the donor’s personal profit. Private transactions like that recently happened, twice, at the DMA. That sort of flip flop by a museum raises questions about the ulterior motives of the donors and by extension the museum’s executive management. Did the museum accept the gifts with the proverbial wink and nod? Is the museum a willing partner to donor’s visions of reaping financial windfalls by acquiring artwork, letting it accrue the museum’s prestige with the resultant exponential increase in monetary value when later sold? Savvy museum-goers and others come away with that perception.

  • Interesting points, but the collection was fluid and thankfully, Dallas already has a Rothko. What’s problematic is that both sides agreed to a long-term contract that effectively forced the painting to be hidden from view as the buyer had to conceal his ownership indefinitely. I tried to address some of the legal questions that interested me in my blog:

    http://theartoflaw.blogspot.com/2010/05/rothko-case-begs-questions-about-how.html