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February 1, 2014

Ellen Gammerman Reports in The Wall Street Journal "Collector Alleges Art Fraud"

WSJ: This Picasso Painting, 'Two Women at a Bar,'
is among the works named in Mr. Edelman's court filings.
2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York/The Gallery Collection/Corbis
Ellen Gammerman in The Wall Street Journal reports in "Collector Alleges Art Fraud" (January 31):
New York art collector and dealer Asher Edelman on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Swiss company Artmentum, claiming his art-financing firm was the victim of a fraudulent deal involving the proposed sale of more than 100 works by masters such as Picasso, Monet, van Gogh and Matisse. The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court and seeking $204 million, alleges that ArtAssure, Mr. Edelman's firm, was wrongly led to believe by Artmentum and its associates last spring that Japan's Hiroshima Art Museum was trying to sell roughly $400 million in art by masters from the late 19th- and early 20th centuries. The complaint alleges the art was never actually for sale, and the financial details provided by Artmentum about the collection—including that the Hiroshima Bank owned the museum works and the Japanese government owned the majority interest in Hiroshima Bank—were false.
The $204 million figure represents the profits ArtAssure would have made in the sale of all the works, Mr. Edelman said, adding that he never actually handed money over to Artmentum for any paintings. In addition, he said he lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in staff time spent investigating the deal. Some art lawyers didn't see the sum as realistic. "In my view, the damages which are requested are absurd because I don't see how he was really hurt," said New York art lawyer Peter R. Stern. 
Mr. Edelman, 74 years old, is a former corporate raider who has generated controversy in the past for his defense of his art interests. He entered the field of art finance roughly four years ago after spending decades as an art collector, museum director and gallery owner.