First reported by the NY Post, here is The Courthouse News Service’s take on the $77m suit filed against the Getty Museum by a group who tried to broker a $350m sale of sculptures from a private Italian collection owned by the Torlonia family.
The whole complaint (posted above) is worth reading. Update: The Getty’s response is below. Digging past the headline accusation of losing a 22% commission on deal that might have been worth $350m, it appears that the plaintiffs did a great deal of unpaid work on the hopes of getting a commission. Unfortunately, no purchase seems to have taken place. Instead, the Getty Museum is working on an exhibition with the Torlonia family:
Phoenix Art, of Geneva, claims the Getty Museum has a “history of dubious acquisitions and trouble with Italian authorities,” so Phoenix protected its proprietary information and trade secrets through a contract with Getty while negotiating with an Italian family that has one of the largest collections of ancient Roman art in the world. The museum, however, “stole the value of years of work and relationships cultivated by plaintiffs in violation of their contractual and legal duties,” the dealer says in the Jan. 12 federal lawsuit.
The acquisitions involved the Torlonia family, which is not a party to the lawsuit. The noble family grew to prominence during the 18th and 19th centuries and amassed a fortune while working for the Vatican. They used much of their wealth was used to build one of the largest collections of ancient Roman sculptures on the planet.
Update: The Getty has issued a comment on the suit:
The claims set forth in the lawsuit are baseless. The Getty was offered an opportunity to discuss a possible transfer of ownership of ancient sculptures in a private collection. The Getty declined the acquisition and the objects were later transferred to the Italian government. We do not understand how the transfer of ownership from an Italian family to the Italian government, which will display the collection in its many wonderful museums, is cause for a lawsuit against the Getty. Plaintiffs cannot plausibly demand payment for a deal that never occurred. While we believe that the complaint should be dismissed, if necessary we will vigorously defend our position.
—Statement from Ron Hartwig, Vice President, Communications, J. Paul Getty Trust regarding a lawsuit filed by Phoenix Ancient Art, Electrum and Regulus International Capital Corp.
Art Dealer Sues Getty Museum for $77 Million (Courthouse News Service)