Another lawsuit is shedding some light on the backdoor wheeling and dealing of the secondary art market.
A gallery called The Art Collection Inc. filed a suit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday alleging that it is the rightful owner of three artworks—two works by Salvador Dalí and one painting by Juan Gris—that were consigned to be sold by Ezra Chowaiki, the dealer who in May pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and admitted to illegally transferring more than $16 million in art between 2015 and 2017. Though it does not indicate when, The Art Collection alleges that it gave Chowaiki the works to sell, but did not receive and money in return.
It is unclear whether the works are currently in Chowaiki’s possession, though the lawsuit indicates that a work by Gris called Le Compotier was transferred to the art dealer David Benrimon, and that The Art Collection had asked for it to be returned before it was transferred to Benrimon by Chowaiki. Benrimon and his gallery are both named as defendants in the suit alongside Chowaiki.
Regarding the two works by Dalí, Courthouse News indicates that one could be Clown Mou en Quatre Visages (1976), a work that was sold at Christie’s in 2007 for more than $271,000, while the other Dalí is a work on paper.
The charges are just the latest wrinkle in the saga that began when Chowaiki & Company Fine Art filed for bankruptcy in November 2017, weeks before its owner was charged. He faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in court on September 12th.