Art law USA

Paris must justify its right to Zadkine’s estate

The artist’s son, born outside of marriage, is fighting for moral and economic rights

Sculptor Ossip Zadkine in his Paris Studio, around 1960 Photo: Pierre Vauthey

PARIS. A court of appeal in Paris has ruled that the city council must outline by 5 April why it should continue to be the sole heir to the estate of the sculptor Ossip Zadkine. The move follows a legal campaign by the artist’s son Nicolas Hasle, a Danish psychiatrist, to lay claim to Zadkine's estate. “The City of Paris has bizarrely refused to justify its right [to the estate]…Mr Hasle has made his case as the [rightful] heir, it now falls to the City of Paris to justify its claim,” ruled the court.

Following Zadkine’s death in 1967, his wife, Valentine Prax inherited the artist’s estate. When she died in 1981, she made the City of Paris the estate beneficiary. A year later, the city opened the Musée Zadkine, which houses 300 of his sculptures. The institution, located in the sixth arrondissement, is housed in Zadkine’s former workshop.

Hasle, who was born in 1960, was the result of an affair between Zadkine and Annelise Hasle of Denmark according to Agence France Presse. In the early 1980s, the French courts recognised Hasle as Zadkine’s son but, at the time, French legislation was weighted against children born outside of marriage. “Zadkine was obsessed by the fact that his son should be acknowledged, which is reflected in the sculptor’s letters,” said Jean-Jacques Neuer, Hasle’s lawyer.

Hasle took the case to the French high court in October 2009, when he demanded moral and economic rights to the estate, resulting in the current stand off with Paris city council. Both Hasle and the City of Paris declined to comment.

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