Documents recently submitted in relation to two lawsuits filed against the embattled adviser Lisa Schiff and her business SFA Advisory reveal the extent of the inventory of works in her possession—including those that are allegedly “missing”. They also detail as-yet unreported claims against Schiff from around 40 individuals and businesses, some worth almost $1m. The documents are dated to 11 August, and came to public attention after they were published today (24 August) by the art market industry newsletter The Baer Faxt.
Schiff is being accused of wrongly diverting money from the sales of clients' artworks, conversion, fraud and breach of contract, among other crimes. She is also facing allegations that she was running a “Ponzi scheme” to fund her “lavish lifestyle”.
One document lists 894 works in Schiff’s inventory (deemed in her possession), worth more than $3.1m in total. The list has been compiled by the New York appraisers and advisory group Winston Art Group—described, perhaps pointedly, in court documents as a "highly respected art advisory business".
Among the scores of artists whose works are embroiled in the scandal are major market stars such as Damien Hirst and Michael Armitage. The vast majority of the 894 works are in art storage facilities, such as UOVO in New York, DAX in Massachusetts and Lockson in Seacaucus, New Jersey. A number of design objects not attributed to any artists are also listed as being held in the DAX storage facility.
Among the galleries listed as holding parts of Schiff’s inventory are Bortolami—which has a 2022 painting by the Japanese artist Koichi Sato—Karma and Canada Gallery in New York, and High Art in Paris. The auction house Phillips is also listed as holding some 20 works, probably in its offsite storage facilities. A 2016 sculpture by Jasmine Thomas-Girvan is listed as “repaired by Zwirner”. No spokesperson at any of these galleries was available for comment by the time of publication.
A spokesperson for Phillips said the auction house has provided information to parties involved in the Schiff lawsuits, but did not elaborate. The spokesperson added: "Phillips always maintain the confidentiality of consignors and buyers unless they expressly direct us otherwise or if we are required to provide that information under applicable law."
Another document states that 108 works considered to be in Schiff's possession are “missing”, amounting to a total of more than $1.1m in value. This list includes works “with potential third-party claimants”, the document reads. Among these items listed are a Zippo lighter work by Hirst and a canvas by the late Virgil Abloh.
A third document provides a fuller picture of the magnitude of the case against Schiff. While it was known that Schiff’s former client and close friend of many years Candace Barasch was seeking at least $2.5m, plus interest and damages, over a number of art purchases that were not fully completed, the document lists around 50 unsecured claims, some worth almost $1m each. High-profile art business professionals seeking claims include Sotheby’s head of private sales David Schrader, the Stephen Friedman senior director Mira Dimotrova and the artist Seffa Klein, the latter of whom is seeking $506,200. The collector Richard Grossman, who was named in an earlier court hearing, is seeking $2.3m.
According to court documents from May, Schiff is cooperating with federal and state authorities investigating her business dealings, and has been working to liquidate her advisory firm to pay creditors. Schiff's lawyer John Cahill could not be reached for comment.