The Daily News gives the lawsuit between Walter Maibaum’s two entities—Modernism Fine Arts and The Degas Sculpture Project—and Rose Ramey Long so extended play,
including the fact that the Degas sculpture in question comes from the controversial casts ordered by Maibaum.
(Update: Walter Maibaum clarified our mistake. “the sculpture was purchased by the Degas Sculpture Project Ltd years after it was cast by the Valsuani Foundry. And to clarify, while I have a direct relationship with the Valsuani Foundry it had nothing to do with either the commissioning or the casting of the Little Dancer bronze edition. It was done solely under the direction of Valsuani before we became involved with the foundry.”)
But the story reveals something else about art dealing that doesn’t often get discussed: the long chain of intermediaries often present between buyer and seller.
In this particular case, there was actually only one—though it is not uncommon to have longer and more complex deals in place between those seeking art and those with art to sell—Rose Ramey Long who is now suffering in the squeeze between the fraudster and her creditors:
Long had told the businesses she was buying the works on behalf of a reputable collector who wanted to purchase it and other works they had, including paintings by Willem de Kooning and etchings by Picasso, for a total of $11 million, the suit says.
The sellers agreed — and because Long said her buyer intended to display the works in a museum in San Francisco, they even knocked 10% off the price of the 16 de Koonings, the suit says. […]
Long, 66, put down a $110,000 deposit, and had the works shipped to her buyer — a man named Luke Brugnara, to whom she’d sold some artwork about a decade earlier, court papers say. […]
Brugnara, 51, a convicted tax evader and trout poacher, was charged in San Francisco Federal Court with mail fraud and ordered held without bail. He’s expected to stand trial next month.
He maintains that Long gave him all the artwork as “a gift,” and it’s worth far less than she claims. His court papers note that the missing Degas sculpture — which is bronze and 39 inches high — was just made about 20 years ago using a plaster cast that Degas fashioned in about 1903. Court exhibits show there are 46 of them.
Maibaum also had this to say about the little dancer bronze the other works:
To set the record straight, please be advised that I did not “order” the bronze casts of the Little Dancer nor was I involved in the casting of the edition. Rather the bronzes were cast by the Valsuani Foundry in France under strict accordance with French law without my involvement. In reference to the so called “controversy,” please also be advised the bronzes were authorized by the Succession Degas and authenticated by the Comite Degas.