Marlborough wins suit against Schwitters estate

Bacon executor denies parallels with its own case

The Marlborough Gallery has won almost $2.4m from the Kurt Schwitters estate after four years’ litigation, in a case that the gallery claims may have implications in the suit brought by the Bacon estate against the gallery.

The Schwitters case was heard before Norway’s High Court and opposed Marlborough and two members of the artist’s family: his son Ernst’s estranged wife Lola and his grandson Bengt. It was the culmination of a hugely complicated series of events concerning the Schwitters estate and particularly the relationship between Ernst and Gilbert Lloyd, son of Marlborough’s founder, Frank.

The Schwitters had accused the gallery of buying works from the estate at below market value, under-insuring some works and withholding money from the estate. The court ruled that the charges were unfounded and awarded damages and costs to Marlborough. The gallery had already won its case in Oslo’s appeal court last Spring, and the victory was confirmed by the Supreme Court in December.

Marlborough is still involved in litigation concerning the Bacon estate: last year it received a High Court writ from Brian Clarke, executor of the Bacon estate and a friend of Bacon’s heir John Edwards. The writ alleged that during the course of a 40-year relationship with the artist, Marlborough exercised “undue influence and control” over Bacon, by consistently undervaluing and underpaying for his works while selling them at a huge profit. The gallery lost control of the estate in 1998, and it is now handled by New York dealer Tony Shafrazi in association with Gérard Faggionato.

Asked for his comments, Brian Clarke told The Art Newspaper: “I have never drawn a parallel between my case and the Schwitters one. The only parallel is with the Rothko case for which Marlborough was criminally prosecuted”.

Mr Clarke’s case comes before the High Court early next year, and he says, “I am not asking for money, but for full accounting and for explanation of anomalies. We have to seek the protection of the law to make sure the truth comes out”.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 111 February 2001