NEW YORK—Three lawsuits have been filed against Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, Manhattan, and its director, Lawrence Salander. One seeks payment of the outstanding balance reportedly owed the seller by Salander-O’Reilly on a painting by Charles Sheeler; another, filed by the son of artist Stuart Davis, accuses the gallery of selling his father’s works without authorization or proper recompense. Both complaints were originally reported in the Maine Antique Digest.
A third suit, seeking $14.6 million, according to an Aug. 31 report in the New York Sun, was brought in late August by hedge-fund manager and art collector Roy Lennox. The claim alleges that Lennox and Salander had an arrangement to buy Renaissance and contemporary art as investments and share the profits when the work was sold, but that Salander stopped sharing the profits in 2006.
The first of these cases involves an oil painting by Sheeler that Massachusetts collector Saundra B. Lane sold to Lawrence Salander for over $9 million on or about April 1, 2005, according to Lane’s lawsuit. In August 2006, at the time the suit was filed in United States District Court, the District of Massachusetts, she sought the outstanding balance of the promissory note (just over $6.7 million), late charges of nearly $84,000 and Lane’s cost of collection, including attorney’s fees.
A motion filed by Lane this past July 25 states that Salander and the gallery have acknowledged that the scheduled payments outlined in the original promissory note were not made. Lane seeks a judgment of $3.42 million, citing “ongoing noncompliance” with the conditions of the sale.
Terms of Agreement
When the Sheeler painting Newhaven, 1932, was sold to Salander, a promissory note was issued to Lane specifying a schedule for payments that equaled the total amount plus interest of 5 percent a year. These payments were scheduled to be fulfilled by Jan. 31, 2007.
Other terms of the agreement specified late fees and consequences in the event of default, defined as Salander’s failure to remit payments “within 10 days after an installment becomes due and payable,” according to the complaint. In the event of default, the agreement stipulated, “the entire unpaid principal balance of the note and all unpaid accrued charges and interest is immediately due and payable at Lane’s option without notice or demand.”
The original collateral on the deal included the Sheeler painting, a work by Albert Pinkham Ryder, a pair of oils on panel by James McNeill Whistler, a bronze by Michelangelo Buonarroti and a Benvenuto Cellini ink drawing; the last two works were switched out in a later filing and replaced with a Gericault painting and two other Ryders. Only the two Ryders were turned over to Lane; and their authenticity, according to the Maine Antique Digest story, was inconclusive, according to an appraisal by New York-based expert Elin Lake Ewald.
Lane’s attorney Heather Repicky, of Nutter, McClennen & Fish, Boston, told ARTnewsletter she could not comment on an ongoing case. Neither Salander nor his attorney for the case, Anthony M. Doniger of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, Boston, returned calls from ARTnewsletter seeking comment.
In a lawsuit filed on May 29, 2007, Stuart Davis’ son Earl Davis accuses Salander of selling dozens of his father’s paintings without informing him or sending him any of the proceeds. The Davis suit states that he gave hundreds of his father’s pictures to the gallery “for evaluation and possible sale” but made it clear that “he did not want any of the works of art to be sold.”
Davis claims the contract stipulated that he would keep some of the works for his own collection and, also, that he was to be notified beforehand if a piece were being put up for sale, “not only to discuss whether to offer the work but also to discuss the price,” the filing states.
He accuses the gallery of failing to return, despite his repeated requests, works by his father still in its possession. “For this reason, Plaintiff brings this lawsuit against Defendants for breach of statutory duties, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, recovery of chattels and an accounting,” court documents state. Earl Davis, reached at home, said he could not comment on the case. His attorney, Dean R. Nicyper of Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer, also declined to comment.
Salander, in a filing lodged by his attorneys on July 17, 2007, denied the allegations made by Davis. “Obviously, the parties disagree about a lot of things,” said Salander’s attorney David Mollon, of Winston & Strawn, New York. “We expect that there will be a resolution either by the courts or by the parties.” Mollon told ARTnewsletter he could not comment further on the case.
Joseph P. Carroll, a New York-based collector and museum benefactor who has owned 19 works by Stuart Davis over the years, is one of a number of collectors and dealers who has been subpoenaed in this case regarding the whereabouts of 103 works. “It’s a little mystifying,” says Carroll, adding that he provided information on the 19 pieces he has owned for a forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Stuart Davis to a committee that included Earl Davis in May 2006. Carroll says he purchased one of the pieces listed in the subpoena from Salander in 2000.
“The Larry Salander that I know is one of the most important dealers in the American art field,” Carroll says. “The Larry Salander that I know is not a thief, not an embezzler and not a fraud. I think what we are looking at is a very messy divorce, and until we have the facts, I think everyone should just reserve judgment.”
Another of the estates that has been represented by Salander-O’Reilly is that of sculptor Elie Nadelman. Cynthia Nadelman, the artist’s granddaughter and a contributing editor to ARTnews magazine, said the family has been negotiating with the gallery for the return of four missing sculptures and is hopeful the matter will be resolved. No legal action has been taken.