In a Hughes Hubbard & Reed matter, the Brooklyn Museum is facing a complicated picture that has drawn the attention of The New York Times. According to a Jan. 15 , 2013 report headlined “Brooklyn Museum Finds Some Problematic Gifts Can’t Be Returned,” the Museum may have to spend six figures annually to store forgeries and diminished artwork due to a generous donor’s restrictions.
In 1932, Col. Michael Friedsam, president of retail emporium B. Altman, bequeathed to the Museum 926 pieces of art, including a wide variety of fine and decorative arts. Since then, the museum has discovered that 229 of these pieces are fakes, misattributions or below museum-standard quality.
Hughes Hubbard alum Francesca Lisk, the Museum’s general counsel, told the newspaper that the Museum is unable to sell or give away the items because Col. Friedsam’s will requires it to obtain permission from the estate’s executors; the last surviving executor died in 1962. Because the will specifies that the art should go to the Colonel’s brother-in-law and two friends if the collection is not kept together, a Manhattan Surrogate Court judge told the Museum in December 2011 that she would not rule until it searched for the three men’s descendants.
Lisk noted that the Museum–which is already dealing with a shortage of gallery space–may have to rent additional storage space, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if it is unable to reduce the number of works in its collection by gift, sale or transfer.
Dan Weiner and Susan Vignola are representing the Brooklyn Museum in this matter. They are assisting the Museum in coordinating with the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau to explore methods to divest the objects at issue.