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Stella McCartney Sued in Family Feud over Paintings

Fashion designer Stella McCartney, a daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney, has been named in a lawsuit along with six of her relatives. It charges that they improperly benefited from the sale at Christie’s New York auctions last November of two of 27 modern paintings and sculptures from the collection of her grandfather Lee V.

NEW YORK—Fashion designer Stella McCartney, a daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney, has been named in a lawsuit along with six of her relatives. It charges that they improperly benefited from the sale at Christie’s New York auctions last November of two of 27 modern paintings and sculptures from the collection of her grandfather Lee V. Eastman (see ANL, 11/22/05).

The suit, brought in New York State Supreme Court by the children of Eastman’s second wife, Monique de T. Eastman, specifies that at least two of the paintings in the sales belonged jointly to their mother, who died last May, as well as to Eastman, who died in 1991. The plaintiffs claim they should share in the proceeds.

The two artworks in contention were painted by Robert Motherwell—Elegy to the Spanish Republic #122, 1972, which sold for $2.1 million; and one of four other works by the artist that is not identified in the complaint. The pieces carry inscriptions by Motherwell to both Monique and Lee Eastman.

The suit—brought by Peter, Paul and Philip Sprayregen, Monique’s children from her first marriage and the three co-executors of her estate—asks for damages exceeding $1 million as well as all legal and court costs. The New York attorney for the plaintiffs, Paul Bschorr, has declined to comment.

At the auctions in November, the 27 artworks were all identified by Christie’s as “the property of the collection of Lee V. Eastman.” Among the other artists represented in the collection were Alberto Giacometti, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko.

Proceeds from the auction were divided into four parts—three going to each of the three surviving children of Lee Eastman (John Eastman, Louise Eastman Weed and Laura Eastman Malcolm); and the fourth to the four children of Linda Eastman McCartney, first wife of Paul McCartney who died in 1998 (Heather McCartney, Mary McCartney Donald, James McCartney and Stella McCartney).

John Eastman, a partner in the New York City law firm of Eastman & Eastman, was cotrustee, along with Monique de T. Eastman, of a marital-deduction trust set up by Lee Eastman. It provided for his wife’s material needs for the remainder of her lifetime and included the art collection.

The suit alleges that John Eastman wrongly deprived his stepmother of enjoyment of works from the art collection during her lifetime; and also wrongly deprived her children of the monetary value of the artworks owned jointly by Lee and Monique Eastman. The complaint accuses John Eastman of having “a conflict of interest in his decision making as to what paintings went into the marital-deduction trust.”

Eastman has declined to comment on the suit. As ARTnewsletter went to press, no response to the charges had been filed.

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