Prominent Art Adviser Named in Embezzlement Lawsuit

Proceeds from the $2.5 million sale of a painting are at the center of the lawsuit

Lisa Schiff
Lisa Schiff attends Lisa Schiff & The SFA Advisory Team Celebrate The 3rd Curatorial Selection By Neville Wakefield, Featuring Works By Tavares Strachan at SFA Advisory on September 4, 2019.
Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Last year, when the New York Times wanted someone to explain the growth of NFTs in the art world, they turned to art adviser Lisa Schiff. The article noted that her clients had included the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and referred to her “office in TriBeCa that doubles as an exhibition and production space for artists.” Now, Schiff stands accused of embezzling one of her clients, who recently filed an eight-figure lawsuit against her — and argued that they’d become the victims of a Ponzi scheme.

Writing at The Daily Beast, Noah Kirsch and Justin Rohrlich explored the details of, and circumstances surrounding, the lawsuit, filed on May 11 by attorneys representing Candace Barasch and Richard Grossman. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs describe themselves as “longstanding clients of Schiff, whom she purported to consider as family.”

At issue are the proceeds from the sale of The Uncle 3, a painting by the artist Adrian Ghenie. The painting sold in late 2022 for $2.5 million, of which Barasch and Grossman’s spouse were each supposed to receive $900,000. The lawsuit states that initial payments of $250,000 to each went through, but a $450,000 payment due to each slated to be made in March never did.

The lawsuit goes on to detail a text message exchange between Schiff and Grossman’s spouse in which Schiff wrote, in part, “I am sorry and have every intention to make things right” and “It’s just complicated.”

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The lawsuit seeks the payment of “damages in the amount of at least $2,050,000,” in addition to interest accrued and attorneys’ fees. Schiff did not respond to requests for comment from either The Daily Beast or Hyperallergic, who also reported on the lawsuit. As art world scandals go, this one seems worth keeping an eye on.

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