The estate of a Paris dealer has sued the Nahmad Gallery in New York once again over a Amedeo Modigliani portrait, alleging that it had been seized by the Nazis and is now owned by the Nahmads. The painting, Seated Man With a Cane, is currently stored in a Geneva warehouse and has had a thorny history. Philippe Maestracci, the grandson of the Paris dealer Oscar Stettiner, first filed suit against the Nahmads in 2011 for the painting’s return, though he eventually withdrew. A judge said earlier this year that Maestracci “lacked standing to press his claim in the United States,” according to the New York Times, which first reported the new complaint. The claim is now being pursued by the New York administrator for Stettiner’s estate.
The painting is currently owned by the International Art Center, which bought it in 1996. Joel M. Aurnou, a lawyer representing the estate has argued that the International Art Center is a mere shell company for the Nahmad network of galleries in New York and London. Aurnou told the Times, “This is one large enterprise that is a scheme to move these things around, and they are all alter egos for one another[.]” The Nahmad Gallery has denied that it owns the International Art Center. More, from the Times:
In the new court papers, Mr. Maestracci’s lawyer says the International Art Center has no employees and was formed in Panama by a lawyer listed as a company director for that corporation and at least 11,000 other companies. But the lawsuit says that Nahmad Gallery employees prepared invoices and documents for the corporation and instructed New York clients to make payments directly in the name of the corporation in Geneva.
The painting is valued at $25 million. Earlier this month, Modigliani’s painting Nu Couché sold for $170.4 million at Christie’s in New York, making it the second most expensive painting ever sold at auction.