Gainsborough painting’s descendants sue Art Finance Partners

Andrew Rose, a former CEO of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, heads Art Finance. Borrowing for works of art is one of the main financial instruments such companies use. However, deals can land in court if a debtor puts up a work they don’t actually own, leading to conflicting ownership claims between collectors and art finance companies.

Midtown’s Athena Art Finance went to court this summer to sue for ownership of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat after former art world’s darling Inigo Philbrick double-handed it to the company and a collector.

Like Philbrick, Sammons was once a respected art dealer. He was also a former Sotheby’s executive. His business collapsed after several complaints surfaced that he had put up with the work of clients. Convicted of fraud, he was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison.

Red flags splashed loudly in the suit, Rose’s relationship with Sammons. Complaints against Sammons increased. Rose admitted that Sammons needed “a quick buck”. And Sammons regularly offered paintings as collateral for cash infusions, which, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan U.S. District Court, were only a fraction of the actual value of the paintings.

Sammons exchanged the Gainsborough painting – the Sotheby‘s one time worth $ 1.1 million – for $ 200,000 in cash, depending on the lawsuit

Art Finance should have seen the writing on the wall, but instead should have continued to accept paintings whose titles should be in doubt, the suit claims.

Rose explained these stores in an email quoted in the suit: “Like a real pawn shop, we own the work in about one in five stores.”

Art Finance and Andrew Rose, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Not a lawyer for Sammons either.

Legal claims aside, Rupert Edward Ludlow Bathurst, the fourth Viscount Bledisloe, and his family – the plaintiffs – could hardly have a stronger blood bond with work. In 1759, Benjamin Bathurst, second Earl Bledisloe and ancestor of the plaintiffs, commissioned Gainsborough himself to paint the painting depicting the plaintiffs’ ancestors as children.

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