In the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished file, Sotheby’s was smart enough to contact a former San Francisco dealer to see if he had a claim to a Tibetan statue offered in its sale. Now that dealer is suing the auction house for the statue’s return even though it was consigned by another party:
Gary Crawford, who owned the now-defunct Kundus Gallery in San Francisco, says he purchased a 15th or 16th century Tibetan Medicine Buddha statue in 1975 for $10,000 from a dealer in London. The statue stayed at the gallery until it was stolen in 1983, Crawford claims.
This August, Sotheby’s contacted Crawford when it came across a statue that fit the description the dealer gave to authorities (along with pictures) 30 years ago.
It was around this time that Crawford claims he discovered that a California company called Weider Health and Fitness consigned the Buddha to Sotheby’s. He says he demanded its return from Weider but “Weider claims to be the owner of the statue” and has refused to return it.
Crawford sued Sotheby’s and Weider in New York Supreme Court on Thursday. He says “he has been and remains the lawful owner of the statue” since be bought it in 1975, and “has superior and exclusive right to immediate possession of the statue.”