An elderly New York art collector has taken his Philadelphia attorney to court for cheating him out of millions. Stuart Pivar sold a bronze sculpture by the Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi to him for $100,000, when the market value was tens of millions.
Stuart Pivar, 88 entrusted his lawyer John McFadden to sell the artwork to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or put it up for auction at Christie’s, but instead, Pivar claims the lawyer convinced him that he should be given title, as the owner, in order to make the sale.
McFadden is accused in the complaint of “theft by deception,” asserting intent “to obtain ownership of the statue itself by deceit, misrepresentation, and subterfuge.”
The New York Post reported that Pivar is seeking $200m in damages from the sale of a bronze titled, ‘Mademoiselle Pogani II’. The work of art has an excellent provenance emanating from the estate of Constantin Antonovici, Brancusi’s studio assistant who produced bronze works from 1947 to ’51. The auction record for a sculpture by Brancusi is $71.18 million. This was achieved in May 2018 from the sale of La jeune fille sophistiquée, Portrait de Nancy Cunard at Christie’s, New York. Another bronze-cast Brancusi head was sold at auction for $57,367,500.
Constantin Brâncuși was a Romanian born artist from the first half of the 20th-century. He is considered to be a pioneer of modernism and one of the most influential sculptors of his time. Brâncuși is called the patriarch of modern sculpture. His art emphasises clean geometrical lines that balance forms inherent in his materials with the symbolic allusions of representational art. Brâncuși sought inspiration in non-European cultures as a source of primitive exoticism, as did Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, André Derain and others. However, other influences emerge from Romanian folk art traceable through Byzantine and Dionysian traditions.
Stuart Pivar was never given a bill of sale or a copy of paperwork known as an ownership transfer for the sculpture. He stated that he only sued as a last resort. “He was my attorney.” “He said ‘sign here,’” “And what do you do when your attorney says ‘sign here’?”
Attorney McFadden is a former trustee of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia but was removed from the board for misconduct in 2014
Top Photo: MAMM Museum Moscow Artlyst © 2019