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Secret Rothko sale inbroglio

Collector and Dallas Museum of Art trustee Marguerite Hoffman is suing Mexican financier David Martinez, Sotheby’s and NY gallery L & M Arts over the public resale of a 1961 Rothko painting she had secretly sold in 2007, just after the piece had been featured in "Fast Forward," a DMA exhibition of works promised to the museum. The piece was resold by Martinez at auction last Wednesday for $31 million. It’s unclear whether she’s embarrassed by the revelation of the sale itself (she has promised to donate the piece to the DMA if she gets it back) or the money she missed by not selling it at auction herself in the first place.

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2 Responses

  1. Council 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.

  2. dallastx

    Dallas has always been about the good ole boy system. Don’t tell the public they only get in the way.

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