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Burri estate war is over

Eleven-year dispute has been settled out of court

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The bitter eleven-year legal battle over the ownership of Arte Povera artist Alberto Burri’s estate has been settled out of court.

The artist’s estate has been managed by the Burri Foundation since shortly after the artist’s death in 1995. The organisation, officially known as the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, houses over 1,000 works in the 15th-century Palazzo Albizzini in Città di Castello, the artist’s home town near Perugia.

But Minsa Burri, the late artist’s wife, claimed that Burri changed his will in her favour shortly before his death, revoking an earlier bequest in favour of the foundation. Mrs Burri fought the foundation for control of her late husband’s estate from 1996 until her death in 2003. Mrs Burri’s brother Cecil Craig, now 86, and her nephews and nieces then took up her campaign to gain ownership.

Mr Craig is a US citizen, and his sister was a French resident and died in France. The case has therefore been contested in the courts of France, Italy and Monaco.

Michel Distel, the French lawyer acting on behalf of Mr Craig, told The Art Newspaper: “The parties have simply decided to amicably settle their conflict. The settlement can be described as an agreement whereby the foundation is deemed to be sole heir to Alberto Burri and the family of Minsa Burri, a surviving brother [Mr Craig] and eight nephews, remain sole heir to her [Minsa Burri’s] estate.”

The Burri Foundation, whose legal campaign was supported by the Italian ministry of culture, stated that: “The agreement ends litigation brought before the courts of Italy, France and the Principality of Monaco concerning the title to the inheritance of Minsa Craig [Burri] and through her to the inheritance of Alberto Burri. The agreement provides that all the works and assets of Maestro Alberto Burri and of his inheritance remain owned by the Foundation while the inheritance of Minsa Craig, with its assets and liabilities is passed to her relatives.”

Under the settlement, all works housed at the Palazzo Albizzini and another council-run gallery in Città di Castello remain the property of the foundation. Mr Craig and Ms Burri’s relatives gain entitlement to her properties in the south of France with their contents.

Mr Distel added that “Minsa Burri owned about a dozen works by the artist (not counting multiples); they will be exhibited at the Mitchell Innes & Nash gallery in New York at the end of the year”.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 184 October 2007