In 1988, investor, budding art collector, and Bahamian citizen Michael D. Dingman purchased an Amedeo Modigliani from Perls Galleries in New York. He dropped $1.44 million on the work, a Portrait de femme which was subsequently consigned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s some surprise then, that twenty years later during a routine insurance inspection, Sotheby’s claimed they couldn’t authenticate the painting. That started the ball rolling on the type of problem-filled escapades found only in the lives of the super rich.
In Feburary 2013, Dingman, under the auspices of Edinburgh Investments Ltd. filed suit against Sidney Tenoudji, son of the painting’s former owner and co-founder of Galerie Keza in Paris, for failing to hand over documents that would establish the painting’s authenticity. So far, Tenoudji hasn’t budged.
According to Dingman’s suit, Tenoudji had previously offered to disclose documents that could authenticate the Modigliani, but he backed out of a contract—which would have paid him 500,000 Euro—just for handing over papers for inspection. Now, according to the suit, if Tenoudji fails to produce the documents, Dingman plans to seek $30 million in damages, for the value of the painting, interest costs, and all other costs associated with the suit.
The dispute here isn’t that the documentation doesn’t exist, but rather, that Tenoudji doesn’t like the terms Dingman offered. Tenoudji, represented by lawyer Matthieu Avril, claims he holds onto documents that would authenticate the painting, but believes he should receive more than 500,000 Euro. Avril is making the case that the value of the documents should be based on a percentage of the painting’s sale price.
Throughout the negotiation process, Tenoudji has made several threats to destroy the documents, according to the suit.
In addition to this, the defendant has issued a first notice for discovery for Tenoudji to produce the documents in New York on March 20, 2013.