The New York Post got the story of a Basquiat drawing that is being disputed by Francesco Pellizzi who claims ownership of the work he says his mother bought for him in 1988 for $8800. Pellizzi says it was stolen and he next saw it in a catalogue for Christie’s Spring sales in New York. The consignor, David Ruttenberg and his advisor, Jennifer Vorbach, got Pellizzi to agree to let the sale go through and settle the dispute after:
Francesco Pellizzi, 73, says his mother paid $8,800 for the 27-by-20-inch work in December 1988, and gave it to him as a Christmas present. […]
Pellizzi, Ruttenberg and Vorbach were unable to settle their differences on their own, so Pellizzi is asking a judge to step in and award him $520,000 of the proceeds — the amount of the winning bid.
“It changed hands a number of times, but Vorbach and Ruttenberg are not able to trace it back to anyone who obtained it from Mr. Pellizzi,” Stern said.
The Basquiat in dispute, which portrays a weird, wobbly stick figure, “has a very long history of life outside the United States where the laws are different,” Ruttenberg told The Post.
The attorney paid six figures for the piece in 2012, which Vorbach located in a Swiss gallery, he said.
They’d researched the ownership of the art going back about a decade, and found it had gone through owners in Europe and China before they came upon it.
“If it’s being sold around Europe, you’re not doing a very good job of looking for your artwork,” Ruttenberg quipped. “We bought it as an innocent buyer.”