Crime Retrospective The Knoedler Affair

Wiretappers and Art Galleries: The Other Knoedler Trial, in 1956

Stereoscopic image of M. Knoedler & Co., ca. 1860–90. VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Stereoscopic image of M. Knoedler & Co., ca. 1860–90.

VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Many are now familiar with the much-publicized Knoedler trial, which, as M. H. Miller wrote in a recent article published in these pages, “unearthed one of the greatest scandals the art world has ever seen and laid bare the chain of suspicious decisions that brought down what had once been a storied gallery.” Sixty years ago, well before Ann Freedman sold a Mark Rothko forgery to Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, Knoedler was part of a very different trial, this time on the prosecution side. Below is coverage from the ARTnews archives of how, in 1956, Knoedler sued Wildenstein & Co. for tapping its phones and stealing confidential information. For more coverage of art crimes from the ARTnews archive, click here.

“Knoedler vs. Wildenstein”
April 1956

M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., widely-known art gallery, has filed suit in the Federal Court of New York against Wildenstein & Co., Inc., also internationally known as art dealers, and its officers, Georges and Daniel Wildenstein and Emanuel J. Rousuck, for damages resulting from the alleged tapping of Knoedler’s telephone wires last year. John G. Broady, who was recently convicted of wire tapping, admitted receiving payment from Rousuck for the delivery of recorded conversations of Dr. Rudolph Heinemann, art dealer who transacts a part of his business with Knoedler. The Knoedler suit claims damages of $500,000. The Knoedler complaint alleges the following: “…the possession and use by defendants of such confidential information caused plaintiff serious injury in its business, good will and reputation in that defendants utilized such information to compete with plaintiff for the acquisition and disposition of works of art, and in that doubts were created among plaintiff’s clients as to the reliance which could be placed upon plaintiff to maintain the confidential character of information from such clients.”

The lawyer for Wildenstein & Co. issued a statement, in part as follows: “…The Wildenstein Galleries have never engaged in any wire tapping and there was no evidence in the Broady trial to show that Wildenstein had participated in any way in wire tapping….The Wildenstein Galleries welcome this opportunity to prove in open court that Knoedler and certain persons associated with them have deliberately perverted the testimony in the recent Broady trial.”

“Knoedler vs Wildenstein suit dropped”
October 1956

The lawsuit for $500,000 damages by M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., for alleged wiretapping, has been settled out of court. According to The New York Times, no cash payment was involved.

“The action was terminated,” the firm’s lawyers said, “following the statement by Georges and Daniel Wildenstein to Charles R. Henschel, president of Knoedler, that the Wildensteins had been shocked to learn in connection with the prosecution of John G. Broady, who was convicted of wiretapping, that telephone conversations of Knoedler and another art dealer had been intercepted and that recordings of some of these conversations had been acquired from Broady by Emanuel J. Rousuck, a Wildenstein employee.

“The Wildensteins stated that they had nothing to do with acquiring the recordings and that they regretted any intrusion of Knoedler’s privacy.”

The suit was brought last spring [A.N., Apr. ’56].

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