One of the most closely watched lawsuits in the art world has taken another turn, with a British court ruling last week that dealer Inigo Philbrick cannot remove any of his $13.7 million in assets from England and Wales.
On November 7, the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division ordered that Philbrick is not allowed to move any of his assets—including works by Donald Judd, Christopher Wool, and Yayoi Kusama. The order came after the German art firm Fine Art Partners (FAP) lobbied the court to bring it, following a lawsuit it filed in Miami in which the firm accuses Philbrick of withholding $14 million art.
FAP said in that lawsuit, filed in late October, that Philbrick has “refused” to return the works of which FAP claims ownership, including Kusama’s 2016 installation All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, which is now on view in Miami in a show put on view the Institute of Contemporary Art. Bloomberg has reported that that Kusama piece is owned by the Collection of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia. (Philbrick’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss the suit earlier this month.)
As part of the order, Philbrick must disclose when he sold the work, how much he sold it for, and where he is keeping the proceeds of that sale. In its October suit, FAP alleged that Philbrick is holding other works in his now-closed Miami gallery (which also has an office in London) and in the art storage facility Artmoves Florida.
The order also states that Philbrick is legally obligated to state details about a Rudolf Stingel painting that passed through his hands. That work, an untitled painting from 2012 depicting Pablo Picasso, sold for $6.52 million at Christie’s New York this past May, and is now itself the subject of pending litigation brought by the art-collecting company Guzzini, which claimed in its suit that it owns the Stingel. FAP has alleged in its suit that it financed Philbrick’s purchase of the painting and that he sold it, without the firm’s knowledge, in 2017. Guzzini’s suit states that Guzzini consigned the Stingel to Christie’s, not FAP.
In addition to these works, Philbrick must now provide information about his purchase of Kusama’s Chandelier of Grief (2016), an “Infinity Mirror Room” with similar versions owned by Tate Modern in London and Swarovski in Germany, as well as two untitled Wool pieces and one untitled Judd sculpture.
Representatives for FAP and Philbrick did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the wake of the FAP lawsuit, dealers who have done business with Philbrick have expressed concern. Shortly after that suit was filed, ARTnews asked for comment from the London dealer Jay Jopling, who founded White Cube gallery and was at one time Philbrick’s employer, working with him on the secondary market (that relationship ended several years ago). Jopling returned the following statement: “I’m aware of the news of the litigation against Inigo Philbrick and his company in Miami. Over the years I have acquired a number of artworks through Mr. Philbrick, so this news is both a shock and a cause of serious concern to me. As you will appreciate I’m looking into the situation as a matter of urgency.”