The artwork at the center of a lawsuit against dealer Inigo Philbrick now has new claims that complicate a story that includes accusations of a fake auction guarantee. In a lawsuit filed last week with the Supreme Court of New York, Guzzini Properties, Ltd., a company that collects art, claimed ownership of the work against competing claims from Aleksandar Pesko, whose company is Satfinance Investment Ltd. and Germany’s Fine Art Partners. Philbrick, has been accused of withholding $14 million in art from FAP, including a Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirror Room” now on view in an Institute of Contemporary Art Miami show and, according to an article in Bloomberg, owned by the Collection of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia.
In the previous suit, FAP alleged that it financed Philbrick’s purchase of the painting, an untitled 2012 Rudolf Stingel painting of a photograph of Pablo Picasso, and that he then sold it, without their knowledge, in June 2017.
The most recent suit claims that the Stingel was sold to Guzzini in June 2017 and that they were the consignors to Christie’s, not Philbrick as claimed by FAP in its suit.
According to Guzzini’s complaint, the Stingel painting was one of three works that the company agreed to buy from Philbrick in 2017 for $6 million. (The other two works are not named in the suit.) The Stingel allegedly sat in a storage facility in Switzerland for two years, and was then consigned to Christie’s this past March. The lawsuit says that Christie’s, which is not named as a party in the suit, now currently possesses the painting. A representative for Christie’s confirmed that the house now has the work, but did not immediately supply ARTnews with a comment.
Christie’s auctioned the Stingel in May 2019 for $6.52 million. (FAP’s lawsuit alleges that Philbrick told them he had consigned the painting himself, and also told them Christie’s had given it a $9 million guarantee, submitting documents to FAP that FAP and Christie’s now say were falsified.)
Guzzini’s suit claims that New York’s Stellan Holm Gallery is the winning bidder of the painting at Christie’s auction. The suit claims that, prior to the sale in 2016, Aleksandar Pesko entered into a deal with Philbrick to buy a 50 percent share of the painting for $3.35 million. Guzzini’s complaint asserts that Pesko never paid that sum.
“Mr. Pesko intends to vigorously protect his family’s ownership interest in the artwork and in doing so he will put to bed these demonstrably false allegations,” Judd Grossman, a legal representative for Pesko, said in a statement to ARTnews.
The suit also claims that has Stellan Holm has not fully paid for the Stingel painting, with Christie’s allegedly having received just $1 million of the required $5.5 million that the painting sold for.
Guzzini claims that it paid “full and fair market value for the Stingel,” in 2017 and is now demanding the painting’s return. FAP, meanwhile, has claimed in its suit that Philbrick sold the Stingel to an “as-yet-to-be-determined offshore entity”—which may have been Guzzini—“without notice to or consent from” the German art firm.
“We trust that the New York Supreme Court will see the merits of our client’s claims and will adjudicate the matter equitably,” Wendy J. Lindstrom, a lawyer for Guzzini, told ARTnews.
Neither Stellan Holm Gallery nor Philbrick nor Christies nor Pesko is named as a party in the Guzzini suit.
A representative for Stellan Holm Gallery declined to comment at this time.