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Francis Bacon Estate

Marlborough sued over Bacon estate

Artist allegedly exploited and heir denied his inheritance

The executor of the Francis Bacon estate, Brian Clarke, last month brought a suit in the High Court in London against Bacon’s dealers, Marlborough Fine Art (London), alleging that they had failed to provide a full account of their dealings with the artist and had not accounted for thirty-three works completed between 1972 and 1981, worth a possible £30 million, which would form part of the inheritance of Bacon’s sole heir, John Edwards. Mr Clarke, who was made executor at the request of John Edwards in 1998 when a High Court judgment severed all links between Marlborough and the estate, claims that the gallery exploited the artist over the more that thirty years that it represented him, paying him in one instance just 28% of the end price for “Study from the Human Body” (1983), bought by the De Menil Foundation in Houston, Texas, for $250,000. The estate is claiming also retrospectively for when the artist was alive and is asking for a full account of all profits made by Marlborough (London) and Marlborough International Fine Art based in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, and full payment of any amounts found to be due. John Edwards estimates that Bacon let out an average of twelve to fifteen paintings from his studio a year, which would be removed by Marlborough and at once photographed. Marlborough has not made these photographs available to the estate, which is why it alleges that the gallery has concealed works.

This case arouses memories of the estate of Mark Rothko, also handled by Marlborough, in which the gallery was found to have bought works at far below their market value from the executors and resold them through companies in Lichtenstein for six to ten times the amount.

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Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 102 April 2000