How much independent research should a collector do before making a purchase?
A lawsuit filed in London’s High Court against Old Masters dealer Richard Green takes aim at this question.
Collector Gary Klesch is suing the dealer after he purchased two paintings for €5 million at last year’s edition of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). The lawsuit was first reported by The Art Newspaper.
Klesch, who heads an international industrial commodities group in Geneva, paid €3 million for Jan Brueghel the Elder’s River Landscape with Fishers and a Cart (1600–10) and €2 million for Salomon van Ruysdael’s Winter Landscape with Figures Skating and Sleigh-Riding Outside a Town, with the Utrecht Dom and Huis Groenwoude at Right (circa 1658).
Eight months later, Klesch filed his suit after learning that the Breughel sold at the Cologne auction house Lempertz in November 2017 for €1.45 million and that the Ruysdael had sold for $882,500 at Sotheby’s New York in June 2017. He claims the gallery did not give him this information, and had he known it, he would not have paid the prices he did.
Gallery director Jonathan Green appears to have been blindsided by the lawsuit. He tells artnet News that he presumed the collector had either looked up the paintings’ price histories—auction information is readily available through sources like the artnet Price Database—or that they simply didn’t matter to him.
Further, Green says he would have disclosed the information if asked. He points out that, as is often the case with Old Master paintings, the Ruysdael needed careful cleaning to upgrade its condition and that the Brueghel was a piece he specifically sought out at a smaller auction in Germany.
Green says that Klesch’s family office reviewed the purchase agreement and transferred the funds for the pictures within a few days.
In an additional statement, Green said: “It is rare for our clients to be dissatisfied, but if this were the case, we would have invited Mr. Klesch to discuss with us his concerns. Unfortunately, he did not give us that opportunity. In November 2018, he served a claim on us expressing his desire to rescind the sale. Although Mr. Klesch is dissatisfied with the price paid for the paintings, there are very good comparables for both artists that have appeared at auction before and since Mr Klesch’s purchase which justify the value placed upon them.”
“These were my two best paintings on the stand at the TEFAF fair,” Green tells artnet News. Klesch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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