Remember the Luke Brugnara case in San Francisco where a convicted felon was sued for ordering $11m in art work, then refusing to pay. Brugnara tried to claim the works by DeKooning, Degas and Picasso were gifts. He also had told the dealer he defrauded that he was planning to open a museum. When the dealer accompanied the works to San Francisco, she found a strange situation that didn’t convince her Brugnara would be able to pay.
Now comes a lawsuit that names Tennessee’s Rose Ramey Long as a dealer who bought works under similar circumstances then failed to pay for them. The Degas Sculpture Project and Modernism Fine Arts are the plaintiffs. Their works seem to match the details of the Brugnara case:
Included in the sale was an “exceptionally rare and valuable limited edition” bronze of Edgar Degas’ famed sculpture, La petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (“The Little Dancer, Age Fourteen.”)
Modernism Fine Arts also owned rare etchings by Pablo Picasso, including Sueño y Mentira de Franco (“Dreams and Lies of Franco”) and En La Taberna: Pecheurs Catalans en Bordee (“In the Tavern: Group of Catalan Fisherman”) dated 1937 and 1934, respectively. Modernism Fine Arts also had 16 “extremely rare and valuable” original oil on paper paintings by deKooning, according to the lawsuit.
Earlier this year, Long vetted the pieces and indicated that she intended to resell them to a California collector, the plaintiffs say. “To protect the integrity” of the pieces, the plaintiffs say, they restrict the private sale of their works to collectors who vow to donate them to reputable museums. Long specifically stated that her “notable end client” planned to open a new museum in San Francisco. The plaintiffs say they agreed to sell to Long the Degas, deKoonings and other works at a 10 percent discount for the deKoonings. The purchase amount is redacted in the lawsuit. But Long paid only $110,000, the plaintiffs say, then resold the art to a customer other than the one she disclosed.
The plaintiffs claim this customer was a “recently released from custody, twice-convicted, federal felon with a history of fraudulent conduct and no source of current income or tangible assets.” Long then failed to pay the contract price or return the paintings, according to the complaint. The crates of art were opened on June 5 – and one was missing, containing the Degas Little Dancer bronze sculpture, according to the lawsuit.