Ana Mendieta Estate Sues Sotheby’s over Rediscovered Work

The estate of Ana Mendieta, the groundbreaking Cuban American artist who often used her body and organic materials such as earth, fire, and blood to create feminist and sometimes violent artworks, is suing Sotheby’s over a long-lost photograph by the artist that reemerged in 2019. Galerie Lelong & Co., which represents the estate, discovered it in a preview catalogue for a photography sale that estimated its value at between $60,000 and $90,000.

Titled Guanaroca (Esculturas Rupestres) (First Woman Rupestrian Sculptures), 1981, the work, which is part of a series inspired by goddesses from the Taíno and Ciboney cultures, was consigned to the auction house by a man named Edward Meringolo, who allegedly purchased the piece from the art historian Rebecca D. Ballenger in 2018, when she apparently sold the contents of her home.

According to the legal complaint, which was filed in the Southern District Court of New York on March 2, the estate alleges that Sotheby’s refused to return the photograph and failed to confirm provenance information related to the piece, which may have gone missing around the time of Mendieta’s death in 1985.

“When the estate of Ana Mendieta inventory was conducted after the artist’s death, we realized that this photograph was missing and hoped that it would resurface and be returned to us,” the estate told Artnews. “It is regrettable that we have to pursue a legal avenue to recover the work, but the estate is dedicated to protecting and supporting the artist’s legacy.”

Commenting on the lawsuit, Sotheby’s told Artnews: “This is an ownership dispute between the estate and the consignor of the work. Sotheby’s is merely a third-party stakeholder in this dispute and will comply with any decision of the court.”