Michael Werner Gallery Sues Trustee Accused of Hoarding Painting

"Red Boat (Imaginary Boys)"

"Red Boat (Imaginary Boys)," courtesy Christie's

The Michael Werner Gallery has filed a lawsuit against Carnegie Museum trustee and collector James H. Rich over a painting that was allegedly supposed to have passed into the museum’s possession but curiously — as its value increased by a factor of 12 — didn’t.

The painting in question, “Red Boat (Imaginary Boys)” (2004) by Peter Doig was sold to Mr. Rich for $162,000 in 2004 but is now up for auction at Christie’s where it’s expected to take in between $2,289,000 and $2,943,000. In the meantime, the Carnegie Museum was meant to assume full ownership, but Mr. Rich claims to have donated a percentage of the painting and then bought it back such that he still owns it.

“These things happen,” said Michael Werner managing partner Gordon Veneklasen. “At the time that we sold the painting it was worth a great deal more already going out the door. The idea was that we chose that this painting would go to the museum, and we’re just trying to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.”

The gallery seeks no money in the suit, which was initially reported by The Baer Faxt, and only asks that Mr. Rich fulfill his supposed obligation. Asked if there was a specific, contractual timetable in which Mr. Rich was supposed to pass over ownership of the painting, Mr. Veneklasen said there was, but declined to elaborate.

“For some people have it’s hard to pass up that kind of money I would imagine,” he said.


The Observer was unable to reach Mr. Rich, but would love to hear from him at dduray [at] observer.com. Michael Werner Gallery Sues Trustee Accused of Hoarding Painting