Purchase Story

Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné Scores Court Win

On April 5 Judge Andrea Masley dismissed a lawsuit filed in a New York court by the Mayor Gallery, Ltd. against the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné LLC and several individual defendants. The judge also ordered Mayor Gallery to pay the legal fees of the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné LLC and its personnel.

In the 26-page decision, the judge rejected all of Mayor Gallery’s complaints but did allow Mayor Gallery to submit an amended complaint within 20 days. If no new complaint is filed, Mayor Gallery’s chance to replead in the future will be denied.

From 2009 to 2013 the Mayor Gallery of London sold 13 works by abstract artist Agnes Martin (1912-2004). When those artworks were submitted to the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné, they were all rejected, causing Mayor Gallery to issue some refunds. Mayor Gallery claimed that it had been damaged in the amount of $7,233,438—the amount paid by the buyers that has already been or must be refunded to the buyers. It also alleged product disparagement, tortious interference with contract and with prospective business relations, and negligent misrepresentation.

The Mayor Gallery sold Day & Night, a 72" x 72" acrylic on canvas, signed “To Delphine, Agnes Martin, 1961-64,” to Jack Levy for $2.9 million in September 2010. In May 2014 Day & Night was delivered to the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné. On September 25, 2014, Levy received notice that Day & Nightwould not be included in the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné. After the rejection, Mayor Gallery honored its warranty of authenticity, took back the picture, and refunded Levy his money.

Mayor Gallery wanted to resubmit the picture to the committee, correct errors in the provenance, and add more information, including an exhibition history, a photo of Day & Night with Agnes Martin in the foreground, and more. Mayor was told it was unnecessary to resubmit Day & Night, and it was rejected again.

In 2009 Patricia and Frank Kolodny bought an untitled work by Martin from Mayor Gallery for $240,000. Johanna Kolodny, who was given the picture, submitted it to the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné in August 2015. A letter from the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné, dated November 24, 2015, rejected the picture. Kolodny held on to the painting and received no refund, but, according to the suit, she will retain ownership “only until and if” Mayor Gallery can establish that it is “authentic and marketable.”

Sybil Shainwald bought The Invisible, a 1957 graphite on paper, signed and titled by Agnes Martin, for $180,000 in December 2012. In August 2015 it was rejected by the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné. Mayor Gallery refunded Shainwald’s money.

Pierre de Labouchère bought from Mayor Gallery in 2013 ten Martin works, all acrylic on canvas, for approximately $3,625,000. When submitted to the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné in 2014, they were all rejected. Labouchère considered demanding a refund but has held on to the works.


Originally published in the May 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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