New Jersey art lovers may remember that sculptor Alexander Calder and his long-time friend and dealer, Klaus G.Perls are both deceased. Calder died in 1976 and Perls died in 2008. The heirs of Calder's estate have filed a lawsuit against Perls' estate, alleging that millions of dollars have been essentially stolen from Calder's estate.
It has been alleged that Perls and his family neglected to turn over several of Calder's works to his estate. Perhaps worse than that is the allegation that the dealer sold forgeries of Calder's work. This allegation has come as a shock to the art community since Perl had an impeccable reputation and worked diligently to stamp out art forgeries.
According to reports, it was only by chance that Calder's estate discovered that Perls and his wife allegedly had pieces of Calder's work that had not been turned over to the estate. Court documents claim that Perl, and later his estate, refused to turn over any additional pieces or proceeds from the sale of those pieces. It is presumed by Calder's estate that some $20 million worth of jewelry, sculptures and other items have not been turned over to Calder's estate.
Of course, the heirs of Perls' estate have denied the allegations made by the artist's estate. There are other issues involved in this litigation as well, and it could be some time before those issues are resolved -- whether it be through settlement or a trial. The fact that this lawsuit came about after the death of both men may seem unusual, but it does happen. As happened in this case, New Jersey heirs and beneficiaries may bring lawsuits against anyone believed to have diminished the value of an estate by means including, but not limited to, theft or mismanagement.
Source: The New York Times, Calder's Heirs Accuse Trusted Dealer of Fraud, Patricia Cohen, Oct. 29, 2013