Nahamad Gallery receives fresh complaint over Modigliani portrait

New York’s Nahmad Gallery is set to once again be at the centre of legal action over a portrait by painter Amedeo Modigliani.
The estate of a Paris dealer, which is the party suing the gallery, claims the work, Seated Man With A Cane had been seized by the Nazis before falling into the ownership of the Nahmads.
Seated Man With A Cane first became the subject of legal action back in 2011, with the grandson of dealer Oscar Stettiner making a bid for the painting’s return.
The lawsuit was eventually withdrawn, with this latest legal bid being spearheaded by lawyer Joel M. Aurnou, the estate’s representative.
The painting, which does have something of a chequered history, has been placed into storage in Geneva.
The court filing argues that Mr Stettiner had fled Paris in 1939 without his gallery’s collection of art and antiques, which were seized by a temporary administrator appointed by the Nazis, which oversaw the gallery in 1941.
The painting was then sold at auction three years later by the Hotel Drouot, before then being sold in a number of transactions.
According to the latest legal document, Mr Stettiner then filed a civil claim in 1946 for a portrait of himself as a child, a pile carpet and what was described “a Modigliani portrait of a man”. None of those items could be recovered.
The portrait was reportedly tracked down by James Palmer, whose company, Mondex, specialises in the recovery of looted art.
He argued that Mr Stettiner had only owned one Modigliani portrait, which was tied to him through letters written when he lent it for display at the 1930 Venice Biennale.

History of lawsuits

The work has been owned by the International Art Center since 1996 and Mr Aurnou claims it is thinly-veiled attempt at taking attention away from the fact it is still owned by the Nahmad network of galleries in New York, and also in London.
The lawyer told the New York Times: “This is one large enterprise that is a scheme to move these things around, and they are all alter egos for one another.”
The Nahmad Gallery has denied those accusations, claiming it has no control of or ownership stake in the International Art Center.
Sentiments were echoed by the gallery’s lawyer, Aaron Richard Golub, who dismissed the accusation as having “no substance whatsoever”, adding he was not convinced by Mr. Stettiner ownership of the painting.

Not giving up

Despite the allegations being dismissed by the gallery and its advisors, the papers submitted by Mr Maestracci’s lawyer insists the International Art Center has no listed workers and was, incredibly, formed in Panama by a lawyer listed as a company director for that corporation and a minimum of at least 11,000 other companies.
According to the New York Times, the lawsuit claims Nahmad Gallery employees prepared invoices and documents for the Center, instructing New York-based clients to make direct payments in the name of the corporation in Geneva.