Franz West. Photo: Markus Roessle / Archive Peter Noever.

Family of Franz West Wins Court Battle Over Artist’s Estate

Franz West’s young children and their legal guardian, Benedikt Ledebur, have won the battle over the artist’s estate, writes Rachel Corbett of the Art Newspaper. A Viennese court ruled that the paperwork for the creation of the Franz West Private Foundation, established only days before the artist’s death, was missing language that is usually standard in such agreements, including a “statement of dedication” from the foundation that would underline its acceptance of terms. “They were done in the hospital, just two days before he died and just hours before he had to receive medication,” said the West family’s lawyer, Christoph Kerres. Now monies from sales and any remaining works from the artist’s estate, “worth many millions of euros,” said Kerres, will go to West’s children—provided the foundation chooses not to appeal the decision.

After the artist signed the paperwork on his deathbed, the organization claimed all rights to West’s assets and royalties, which would have gone to his children and wife, the artist Tamuna Sirbiladze, who died in 2016. Since the foundation’s creation, there have been abuses: Last June the Oberlandesgericht Wien, the higher regional court of Vienna, removed three members from the board of the West foundation for paying themselves excessive salaries—$560,000 during a five-month period in 2012, the year the artist died, and more than $900,000 in 2013.

If the foundation gets dismantled after the ruling, the Franz West Archive, launched in 1997, could become the only authenticator of the artist’s works. In the past, the archive has sued the foundation, Gagosian Gallery (the artist’s US representative), and Galerie Eva Presenhuber for selling photographs and furniture that belonged to West, as the archive owns the sole license to those items.