Sale of Alexander Calder Sculpture Prompts Multiple Lawsuits

One work of art, plenty of legal drama

Alexander Calder in 1975
Alexander Calder in 1975.
GEORGEON/ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Historically, debates over the sculptures of Alexander Calder have focused on the traditional subjects of art-world discussion: the merits of a given work, the circumstances of its creation and so on. But a 1950 piece by Calder has led to an interaction of a very different kind — one that’s set to play out in a courtroom, with millions of dollars at stake.

Writing at The Daily Beast, Emily Shugerman has details of several lawsuits centered around the ownership of one of Calder’s works — a legal drama that has significant art-world players on opposing sides. According to the article, gallery owner Edward Nahem purchased the Calder work in 2017 via art dealer Elisabeth Royer Grimblat, who said that she was representing the family that had owned the sculpture and was seeking to sell it.

Seems straightforward so far, right? Here’s where things get tricky. As Shugerman recounts, Lea Lee, one of the daughters of the sculpture’s previous owner, contends that her late mother didn’t want the sculpture sold — and filed a lawsuit against her sisters, Nahem and Royer Grimblat. Nahem, for his part, has also filed a lawsuit seeking to have his ownership of the sculpture confirmed in a court of law. It’s a contentious situation — and that’s without getting into the accusations of stalking and theft that have also surfaced.

Veteran Critic John Yau on the Changes He’s Witnessed in the Art World
His thoughtful new book offers a new lens on contemporary art

Contentious sales in the art world are nothing new, and it’s not hard to see why this case has sparked so much controversy. In the case of the Calder sculpture, there’s a lot of history involved — and plenty of art-world connections. It’s not hard to see why this one work of art has inspired plenty of courtroom drama.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.