NEW YORK—Nineteen equine paintings consigned for a Dec. 2 sale of sporting art at Sotheby’s by the New York Racing Association (NYRA) were withdrawn shortly before the auction owing to an ownership dispute.
The NYRA “had represented and warranted that they had the right to sell the paintings,” Sotheby’s spokesman Matthew Weigman told ARTnewsletter, but the state’s Racing and Wagering Board (which oversees racing, casinos and charitable gaming) asserted that the artworks were actually owned by the State of New York and could not be sold without its approval.
The NYRA, a nonprofit organization operating three New York State racetracks—Aqueduct and Belmont in Long Island and Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs—has experienced significant financial losses these past several years and projects a $6 million deficit for fiscal 2006.
To help the association restructure its management and return to fiscal viability, New York governor George Pataki established an oversight board this past year; that board must also approve any items put up for sale by the NYRA.
Racing and Wagering Board chairwoman Cheryl Buley issued a statement shortly before the auction, specifying that “any sale of this artwork would need to be authorized by our Board and the Oversight Board, but we remain unconvinced that this is an appropriate action to address NYRA’s fiscal situation.”
Sotheby’s had estimated the 19 paintings at $747,000/1.05 million. Nine of them are the work of American artist Henry Stull (1851-1913)—priced from $15,000/20,000 to $40,000/60,000. The highest-estimated work in the group ($300,000/400,000) was by British artist John Frederick Herring Sr. (1795- 1865). The other 190 lots in the Sotheby’s sale brought a combined $13,922,780.