As two lawsuits against adviser Lisa Schiff continue on, a New York judge has given the go-ahead for some of her artworks and her book collection to be sold, paving the way for more pieces to follow.
According to an inventory collected by the Winston Art Group earlier this year, Schiff has just under 900 artworks in her possession. That means that these potential sales only apply to just a select few works among many more. And, per another document submitted by that same advisory firm earlier this year, there were still over 100 works that passed through Schiff’s hands and have yet to be located.
But the court’s sign-off on sales of paintings by Ann Craven and Max Jansons, as well as Schiff’s art books, suggests the possibility of other similar transactions still to come.
Earlier this year, collector Candace Carmel Barasch filed two suits against Schiff, whom Barasch alleged had defrauded her. In one lawsuit, she said she had given Schiff $6.6 million for the purchases of artworks that she never received. In the other, Barasch and the collector Richard Grossman accused Schiff of continuing to owe them $1.8 million accrued through the sale of an Adrian Ghenie painting.
Both lawsuits are still pending, and so are legal filings related to Schiff’s business, SFA Advisory, which shuttered earlier this year.
Amid claims against Schiff from other collectors and galleries, Douglas J. Pick, the lawyer assigned to Schiff’s case, was given authorization to sell two paintings by Ann Craven. Miami’s Nina Johnson Gallery had made a $36,000 offer for these works, but New York’s Karma gallery appears to have outbid that enterprise, saying it will pay $40,000. A judge gave the okay for Pick to sell both paintings to Karma earlier this month. (A Karma spokesperson did not respond to request for comment.)
Also this week, a judge authorized Pick to sell the rights and title to books belonging to Schiff’s firm for $10,500, a sum that exceeded an offer from New York’s Passageway Books by more than $3,000, according to court documents.
Two more Craven paintings will also soon hit the block in a court-approved auction, as well as five paintings by Max Jansons that Pick has estimated to be worth around $10,000. (Earlier this month, Pick purchased an ARTnews advertisement for the sale of the two Craven paintings that ran as a sponsored newsletter. ARTnews’s editorial team was not aware of the advertisement prior to when it was sent.)
Meanwhile, Wendy Lindstrom, a lawyer for Barasch and Grossman, is seeking to halt Pick’s attempts to return certain works to some who filed claims against Schiff. Lindstrom claims that Schiff was able to purchase works for some of her clients using Barasch and Grossman’s money.
As those requests from Lindstrom continue to pend, Pick is also lobbying the court to grant orders that galleries must return deposits allegedly paid out by Schiff. At least one of those works, a $650,000 Wangechi Mutu sculpture bought from Gladstone Gallery, was named in Barasch’s lawsuit as a piece that she had had Schiff buy and subsequently never received.
Pick claims that Gladstone, along with Kaufmann Repetto, Nina Johnson Gallery, Canada Gallery, 15 Orient, Thaddaeus Ropac, and High Art, have “failed and/or refused” to return deposits Schiff made on certain works. Those works range from a $750,000 Cory Arcangel piece Schiff allegedly arranged to buy with Thaddaeus Ropac to a $23,000 RJ Messineo work that Schiff had begun to purchase from Canada.(A Thaddaeus Ropac spokesperson declined to comment; the other galleries did not respond.)
“We are currently talking to everyone about alleged consignments, alleged partial ownership interests, and about selling the inventory,” Pick said in an email to ARTnews, claiming it was “harsh” to quote that portion of his filing.