The SF Chronicle reports that the city’s de Young Museum may finally get clear title to most of the Jolicka Collection of “primitive” art from Papua New Guinea. The dispute was narrated superbly by Kate Jones in the NY Times and involves a dizzying number of agreements and cross-conflicts between the heirs. Along the way, Sotheby’s became a creditor to the collection as the collection itself was used as collateral to purchase more works:
The tentative settlement, confirmed Tuesday by attorneys involved, will give the de Young clear title to 274 of 398 pieces of Papua New Guinea artwork housed at the city-owned museum – a compilation that nation’s ambassador to the United States hailed as an “unparalleled and extensive collection of masterpieces.” The fate of the remaining 124 pieces at the de Young Museum, dozens of them on loan from Sotheby’s, is still unresolved and could result in some of the pieces being sold to satisfy a roughly $20 million debt to the auction house. […]John Friede had paid his brothers more than $22 million of the $30 million, but legal fees and interest made the shortfall around $10 million, court documents show. In April, the city agreed to sell 76 works not at the museum to help pay the Friedes’ debts. Only some have been sold.
Under the settlement, the balance John Friede owes his brothers will be set at $5.65 million and will be paid from three sources: John Friede’s one-third share of the Pierre Bonnard painting “Le dejeuner” that he owns with his brothers; a portion of a $3.7 million payment from his mother’s estate that was to go the de Young to pay for upkeep, promotion and study of the Jolika Collection; and proceeds held in escrow from the sale of some of the works not housed at the museum, lawyers involved in the case said.
The brothers, Thomas Jaffe and Robert Friede, agree to give the de Young clear ownership of 168 works at the museum, on top of the 106 collection pieces the de Young indisputably owns. “We’ve achieved a great result in protecting the museum’s works from the brothers’ claims,” Deputy City Attorney Don Margolis said. “Everyone compromised to some extent.”
Rosemary Halligan, an attorney for Friede’s half-brother, Thomas Jaffe, noted that the agreement is tentative.