The War of Art: How Family Squabbles Can Ruin Great Collections

The War of Art: How Family Squabbles Can Ruin Great Collections

It sounds like a conflict out of a Medieval Italian city state.

Belinda Neumann-Donnelly and her father Hubert are at war over a painting. They’ve taken it to court; it’s in all the papers. We can only hope that greedy Venice and the meddling Papal States will stay out of it.

Here’s what happened – the public version, anyway; what occurred behind closed family doors can hardly be imagined. Belinda inherited a painting by Basquiat, the great fraud-genius, beloved of ever-hopeful collectors, from her departed mother. She wanted to sell the painting, which her father took somehow as a dagger blow aimed at his heart. He sued to block the sale and lost. At auction, the painting gavelled out at more than $30 million. Happy, happy Belinda – she conquered all.

Sadly, certain people and the situations they inhabit can never be joyful. Belinda now sued her father, claiming his machinations had undermined the painting’s performance at auction. She wanted $100 million, from her own father, for Heaven’s sake. Lord and saints preserve us.

Belinda was not done with the courts. She launched a second suit against father and two sisters. At issue is the family collection of 60 major art works. Belinda argues the implausibility of their successfully administering the collection jointly and perhaps she has a point.

We can’t know how the court will rule on these complex matters. However, we can glean lessons for estate planners and wealthy families that own substantial art collections. At the earliest stages, a precise agreement must be agreed and legally established, determining how the collection will be distributed, sold or curated when the proper time comes.

Even seemingly happy families can go to pieces when one or both parents pass away. Better to get everything in writing, while the getting is good.

For more information, please read:
Family Discord May Break Up a Valuable Art Collection | Wealth Management


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