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Mayor Gallery in London Files Lawsuit Against Agnes Martin Authentication Committee

Laura Gilbert of the Art Newspaper writes that London’s Mayor Gallery filed a lawsuit in New York on October 17, 2016, against the authentication committee for Agnes Martin’s catalogue raisonné—which includes Pace Gallery’s founder, Arne Glimcher, who represents the artist’s estate—because they rejected thirteen Martin works submitted by the Mayor Gallery’s clients. Because of this, auction houses such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s will not accept these Martin works for private sale—if they are not included in the catalogue raisonné, they are considered inauthentic. The Mayor Gallery will reimburse the $7.2 million their clients paid for the works. The gallery is seeking the same amount in damages.

As stated in the complaint, four collectors purchased the works, all of which were signed by the artist. Sybil Shainwald bought a work on paper for $180,000; Patricia and Frank Kolodny bought a work on paper for $240,000; Pierre de Labouchère, the former CEO of Japanese Tobacco International, purchased ten Martin paintings for a total of $3.6 million; and Jack Levy, a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, bought Martin’s Day & Night, 1961–64, in 2010 for $2.9 million. When their works were rejected, James Mayor, of Mayor Gallery, wrote to the committee to ask why. His queries were mostly ignored. He was reminded of the contracts signed by his clients that contained a clause stating that they agreed not to sue.

When Day & Night was refused by the authentication committee in 2014, Mayor bought back the work and resubmitted it, this time with photographs of the artist with the piece and of the work with its previous owners, as well as additional information about its exhibition history and the results of a radiocarbon test. It was, however, rejected once more, with a letter from Aaron Richard Golub, the committee’s lawyer. Golub stated, “When I read the complaint, I failed to see a legal claim. I’d never seen a legal complaint without a claim, until now. I compare it to an opera without music.”