Monday, January 25, 2010

Van Gogh Painting in $150M Court Dispute

“The Night Cafe” was painted in Arles, France in 1888 by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, who once described it as “one of the ugliest pictures I have done.”
For MT
“The Night Cafe” was painted in Arles, France in 1888 by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, who once described it as “one of the ugliest pictures I have done.”

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — A Van Gogh painting at the center of a dispute between Yale University and a man who believes that the artwork was stolen from his family during the Russian Revolution is worth $120 million to $150 million, the man's attorney said.
The evaluation is the first public estimate of the painting's value, and the lawyer, Allan Gerson, said Friday that it comes from a top auction firm.
Gerson represents Pierre Konowaloff, the purported great-grandson of industrialist and aristocrat Ivan Morozov, who bought "The Night Cafe" in 1908. Russia nationalized Morozov's property during the Communist revolution, and the Soviet government later sold the painting.
The artwork, which shows the inside of a nearly empty cafe with a few customers seated at tables along the walls, has been hanging in the Yale University Art Gallery for almost 50 years.
A Yale spokesman said the university could not offer a value of the 1888 painting, saying the goal is to have it on public display for perpetuity.
Yale filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court in March to assert its ownership rights over "The Night Cafe" and to block Konowaloff from claiming it.
Yale claims that the ownership of tens of billions of dollars of art and other goods could be thrown into doubt if Konowaloff is allowed to take the painting. Any federal court invalidation of Russian nationalization decrees from the early 20th century would also create tensions between the United States and Russia, Yale argues.
The university says former owners have challenged titles to other property seized from them in Russia, but their claims were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and state, federal and foreign courts.
"Yale is confident that the court will see through Konowaloff's latest rhetoric and recognize that he is asking a U.S. court to turn back the clock 90 years and undo the Russian Revolution," Yale said Friday.
Gerson said in court papers Thursday that Yale was engaging in "scare tactics." He said neither Russia nor the United States expressed any concerns about the case and that any ruling would not affect Russian paintings.
Gerson says the trend by U.S. courts has been to
invalidate confiscations of art. He said in court papers that Yale's argument amounted to compelling U.S. courts to "rubber-stamp good title on any dictator's plunder."
Yale received the painting through a bequest from Yale alumnus Stephen Carlton Clark. The school says Clark bought the painting from a gallery in New York City in 1933 or 1934.
Konowaloff has filed court papers calling Yale's
acquisition "art laundering." He argues that Russian
authorities unlawfully confiscated the painting and that the United States deemed the theft a violation of international law.

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