Monday, October 31, 2011
Rich dad’s ‘frame & fortune’ forgeries
Himan Brown (front) was a pioneer in radio drama and suspense at CBS in New York in the 1940s, dying last year and leaving one last mystery to his son and daughter.
From New York Post: Rich dad’s ‘frame & fortune’ forgeries
Talk about an artless exit.
A legendary Manhattan radio producer with a vast collection of paintings and sculptures has given a final, cruel sign-off to his estranged family -- from beyond the grave.
Himan Brown died last year at age 99, after an illustrious career that helped him amass a $40 million estate, including artworks intended to go to his kids after his death.
But instead of leaving his son Barry and daughter Hilda priceless paintings, Himan swapped out nearly two dozen works by Degas, Manet, Renoir and others with worthless forgeries, a new lawsuit alleges.
The deception went unnoticed until December, when Barry Brown finally got the art his father promised him.
“Had these paintings been authentic, they would have had significant value,” Barry Brown claims in a $27 million Manhattan federal court lawsuit against his own dad’s estate.
Himan and Mildred Brown were married for 34 years as he pioneered golden-age radio dramas like Grand Central Station, Dick Tracy, and Inner Sanctum Mysteries.
The couple collected art by the masters until they split in 1967. Many pieces graced the walls of their Central Park West home, and some were gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Mildred got $1,500 in monthly alimony, the 1966 Corvair, and possession of 34 artworks in the divorce, including the 1921 Pablo Picasso piece “La Maternité.”
There was just one caveat, Mildred insisted: the 34 paintings and sculptures, a fraction of the overall collection, must go to the kids once Mildred and Himan were both dead.
“Throughout [Barry’s] life, his father would discuss the artwork with [Barry] and his mother,” according to court papers. “Himan Brown would review the artwork, the signatures on the artwork, and would represent unequivocally that the artworks were the authentic works of named artists and were very valuable.”
Himan retook possession of the 34 artworks, including “La Maternité” and a Renoir work titled “Paysages à Cagnes,” when Mildred died in 1974.
But the transaction did not go smoothly. In the years that followed, Barry, now 77 and living in Santa Rosa Valley, Calif., accused his dad of trying to sell off the inheritance Mildred secured for her kids. An ugly court battle ensued.
The 2002 case was ultimately dismissed.
The biggest clue: The forgeries all have the same stretchers -- the wood underneath the canvas -- which is an “inconceivable” coincidence, said lawyer Malcolm Taub.
As for what happened to the real paintings? Barry doesn’t know -- but he wants to find out where his dad hid them, or if they were already sold.
Only two significant works were real, according to court papers: The $10 million Picasso, and Armand Guillaumin’s “Rocks on Riviera,” which Barry and Hilda sold at auction last year for $120,000.
“At the end of the day, we have one painting,” Taub said.
His father’s betrayal is the final fracture in a decades-long family rift.
“There’s a lot of blood on the sand,” Taub said. “This is a tortured, tortured case.”
Posted by Barbara Peterson at 10:41 PM