The New York State Court of Appeals Tuesday ended six years of litigation involving the paintings left by the late Mark Rothko when it reaffirmed a lower court's ruling against the Malborough Gallery, its head, Frank Lloyd, and the three executors of the abstract expressionist's estate.
Calling their actions "manifestly wrongful and indeed shocking," the court agreed that Lloyd, his gallery, and the three executors owe the Rothko estate damages and fines totaling $9.25 million.
The case began six years ago yesterday when the artist's minor daughter, Kate, asked the courts to remove the executors on the grounds that they had sold her father's paintings too quickly and top cheaply under arrangements with the gallery that were unfair to the estate. In 1974 a lower court removed the executors and fined them.
Rothko committed suicide in 1970, leaving 798 unsold paintings. The executors sold 100 Rothkos to Malborough for $1.8 million, which was to be paid over 12 years - interest free. They also gave the gallery the right to sell 700 other works at a 50 per cent commission.
The lower court's judge, whose rulings were upheld, had found that many of the canvases had been resold by the gallery at "retail, from 6 to 10 times," the purchase price.