Modigliani: New Authentication Projects May Explode Global Collecting Market

by Daniel J. Voelker, forensic historian and art lawyer

While fraud and forgery in the art world are not new phenomena, the works of Modigliani may be setting a new bar for a confluence of value-enhancing factors, including scarcity and an inventory of outed fakes that have driven prices to record highs. The caveat on the frenetic market for authentic Modigliani art is the challenge of finding one in the first place. Because the artist’s work is infamous for numerous cases of forgery within the highest circles of the art world, coupled with poor documentation, there were previously believed to be only 337 authentic Modigliani works in existence (Esterow, 2017). But this is about to change. Several parties have been quietly working on new catalogues and new validating technologies to shake up the global Modigliani collecting market, which may result in a king’s ransom of works being authenticated and brought to market.

The realization that so many extant fakes reside on the walls of collectors, accompanied by equally worthless certificates of provenance, has led to the drive for new, validated catalogues of work. For those who can prove provenance the payoff is on par with any other scarce collectible. Paintings purchased prior to 1950 for less than $5,000 are now insured and estimated to be worth $20,000,000 or more. In just the past five years, Modigliani’s 1917 painting “Nu Couche,” sold at auction for 170.4 million dollars (CNBC, 2018).
Countless stories of false authenticity hang like a black cloud over the Modigliani market, creating enough uncertainty and skepticism to make the sale of any work a challenge. The paucity of agreed-upon catalogues creates a double-edged conundrum: the seller can’t guarantee authenticity and the buyer can’t validate a purchase. Modigliani imposters are so pervasive that it’s become something of a joke in the industry. “Modigliani was producing more dead than when he was alive,” remarked Carlo Pepi, a well-known Italian art collector (Cohen, 2014).

Read the full article… (PDF)

 

“It Ain’t So, Kid, It Just Ain’t So:” History’s Apology to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Charles Comiskey and Chicago’s Black Sox

In an article written by Dan Voelker, called “a fascinating piece of baseball journalism” by the Wall Street Journal, Voelker exposed the falsehoods that have been perpetuated for almost a century and essentially rewrote the history of the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Utilizing their amazing legal skills and experience in the art of cross-examination, Voelker proved to the world that what had been written about the scandal, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Charles Comiskey is just plain not true.
Read Voelker’s article from the Chicago Baseball Muesum website…

This piece was written about and reported in major publications throughout the United States, and Voelker was interviewed extensively on National Public Radio and a program that appeared on the Major League Baseball Channel in November 2010.

History Fix for “Shoeless” Joe? from the American Bar Association Journal December 1, 2009
Read the ABA article about the research and quotes from Voelker on the ABA website…

Voelker Featured in the upcoming MLB production Triumph and Tragedy “The Rise and Fall of the 1919 White Sox” November 8, 2010
Read about the MLB Triumph & Tragedy episode from the Chicago Baseball Museum website…

Chicago Baseball Museum’s Voelker Teams Up With Legendary Sports Writer Furman Bisher at National Baseball Historian’s Conference Atlanta, GA, August 7, 2010
Read the full story from the Chicago Baseball Museum website…

“In defense of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson” — Chicago Tribune, by Erika Slife, Tribune Reporter Profile of CBM Board Member Voelker’s Quest to clear Shoeless Joe Jackson Chicago, IL, September 9, 2009
Read the full story on the Chicago Tribune website…

Black Sox: ‘It ain’t so, kid, it just ain’t so’ in Chicago Lawyer Chicago, IL, September 1, 2009
Read the full story on the Chicago Lawyer website…

 

Will the Real James Bond, please stand up? Voelker on Rubirosa

By Daniel J. Voelker
Over the years, many have been named as the inspiration for the fictional James Bond. Or was he fictional at all? The decades long question, asked by many, has been answered: Porfirio Rubirosa or,
as he would have more aptly introduced himself, “the name is Rubirosa, Porfirio Rubirosa,” is the real James Bond. Born in San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic, in 1909, to a wealthy family, strong, athletic, and, as they say, dark and handsome (not tall, though), “Rubi” (meaning “red rose”), as he was affectionately known, was the person whom Ian Fleming, the British Intelligence Officer turned novelist, modeled 007.

Fleming decided to write a novel about a fictional spy while he served during World War II. Fleming never identified his inspiration for James Bond, but instead insisted the character was a compilation of many people he had known throughout his life. Fleming never claimed that he based the character on his own life.

Read the full story… (PDF)

 

Christopher Columbus Lawsuits: A legal assessment

Litigators and experienced litigants alike can easily agree on one thing, and probably only one thing, it takes too long, far too long, to resolve disputes. It is not unusual for litigation to take years to resolve, and, in some cases, a decade or more. In some instances, the resolution of a dispute can even outlive a litigant. Litigation is time consuming, frustrating and, at times, exhausting, No one could have echoed this sentiment more sincerely than Christopher Columbus and the generations of his heirs who continue in great number to this day.

Born in the Republic of Genoa (now Italy), he sailed for Spain and became an American icon. Yes, “Christo” himself, as he was affectionately called by his family, and his heirs experienced the same infirmities of litigation as we experience. While he never set foot in the United States, he is as much revered as our own George Washington, and even has a national holiday named in his honor. Forgive me, but I must digress.

It all started in 1450. Born into a wealthy family, Christopher, in mid-life described as “a robust man, quite tall, of florid complexion with a long face,” developed a love of the sea and exploration at a very young age. He learned quickly and made his first sea voyage in 1471. While it was a short trip, it was treasure he sought, foreshadowing things to come. In 1492, after many years of soliciting various royals of Europe, he was offered the opportunity, as any schoolchild knows, to attempt to find a shorter route to India, as the spice trade was booming and a short-cut would have been invaluable. And find a new way he did, it just was not shorter. The earth’s circumference was far greater than anyone had imagined and much land stood in Columbus’ way.

Anxious to use his royal charter to elevate his personal wealth and that of his family, Columbus negotiated a lucrative agreement with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that would bring even Donald Trump and Warren Buffett to their knees. Indeed, on April 7, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella agreed, in writing, at the Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain, in what is known as the “Capitulations of Santa Fe,” to give Columbus and his heirs into perpetuity “ten percent of all the wealth he discovered and claimed for the Crown on his voyages made on their behalf” as well as land grants, extravagant titles and untold potential powers in the New World. Having just retaken Granada and anxious for wealth to reload their coffers for future conquests, the Spanish Crown would have agreed to anything, and, frankly, it did. Four voyages to the New World later, Columbus discovered the route to riches from the Caribbean and South America conservatively valued in today’s dollars at 100 trillion dollars or more. Just the gold and silver lost at sea by Spain on return to Europe over the next two hundred years is estimated to be worth a trillion dollars or more today.

Unlike history, the Crown was not kind to Columbus. On his third voyage, he returned to Spain in 1501 in shackles in a controversy regarding his alleged mistreatment of natives. When his shackles came off and he was released from prison six weeks later, Columbus somehow convinced the Crown to finance another of his voyages to the New World. But when he returned from his fourth and final voyage, the Crown dealt Columbus a knock-out blow when it reneged on its promise of untold wealth, titles and power. Depressed, destitute and sick, Columbus wrote in his diary, “I have not a roof over my head in Castile. I have no place to eat nor to sleep, excepting a tavern, and there I am often too poor to pay for my scot.” Nevertheless, he gathered supporters and initiated arbitration against the Crown for his share of the spoils of his labors; present and future. It is ironic that one of the supporters Columbus selected to present his case to the Crown was none other than Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named.

The litigation that followed spanned three centuries, involved over ten generations of heirs of Columbus and is no doubt the longest litigated dispute in recorded history. This litigation is not well-known in the United States. Referred to as the Pleitos Colombinos, or the Columbian Lawsuits, the Crown argued that it was not Columbus who discovered the Americas. The Crown, desperate to unwind the deal, argued instead that Martín Alonso Pinzón, the captain of the Pinta, was the true Discoverer of the New World. The Crown’s counsel pursued this allegation based upon the testimony of several sailors who made the voyages with Columbus. Columbus had not done himself a favor as he never acknowledged that he had discovered a new continent, always contending that his voyages had landed him at the east coast of Asia. Nevertheless, had Columbus been alive to defend himself, he would have no doubt disagreed and reminded all that he and only he had the grant of authority to claim land for the Crown on these voyages.

Columbus died in 1506, at the age of 54 far from the closure of his dispute with the Crown. In 1508, Columbus’ son, Diego, brought suit seeking specific performance of Columbus’ contract with the Crown.

While Columbus’ heirs prevailed in 1511, after appeals, a new trial was granted in 1527. In 1536, the heirs of Columbus were awarded land in the Caribbean, but only on Jamaica and Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and other powers, titles and a modest compensation, at least in comparison to what was owed to Columbus for his discovery of such vast riches.

The primary litigation was settled in part in 1556, over 30 years after Columbus’ son Diego’s death. A separate, but related, and very colorful action was brought in the form of a declaratory judgment to declare the rightful primary heirs to Columbus’ legacy of money, power and titles. This litigation continued – on and off – for over two more centuries.

While Columbus’ descendants only prevailed in small part, their perseverance is to be lauded. The saga is one of the most curious pieces of legal history. So, when the pace of litigation gets you down, remember that you are not alone. Hopefully, you will have better luck than Columbus and his progeny.

 

Legal Lessons from World’s Longest Running Litigation: The Lawsuits of Christopher Columbus

To many, Columbus Day represents an empty mailbox, a parade and a day off from school; but to the heirs of Christopher Columbus, it’s a reminder of their involvement with the world’s longest running litigation: Pleitos Colombinos, or the Columbian Lawsuits. This suit, initiated in the early 1500’s, seeks to recover the riches Columbus felt were denied he and his heirs by the Spanish Crown. According to attorney Daniel Voelker, who has conducted extensive research on the case, it represents a treasure trove of guidance for those involved with contracts.

Columbus’ issues began with a contract drawn between himself, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, which would bring even Donald Trump and Warren Buffett to their knees. The royals agreed, in writing, known as the “Capitulations of Santa Fe,” to give Columbus and his heirs “ten percent of all the wealth he discovered and claimed for the Crown on his voyages made on their behalf” as well as land grants, extravagant titles and untold potential powers in the New World, in perpetuity.

“This contract would be valued at over $100 trillion in today’s currency and would have made Columbus’ family one of, if not the wealthiest, in recorded history. However Columbus fell out of favor and the Royal’s reneged on their agreement. Understand the position of the party that you’re contracting with and what constitutes stipulations for cancellation, with or without cause,” says attorney Daniel Voelker.

Columbus spent his final day’s poor and destitute, but with enough strength to gather supporters for litigation against the Crown. “It’s critical to document your facts when defending a contract. The litigation dragged on for three centuries and involved ten generations, with the Crown arguing that it was actually Martín Alonso Pinzón, the captain of the Pinta, who was the true Discoverer of the New World, not Columbus,” adds Voelker.

Voelker’s complete assessment and the story of the case can be found at: http://www.voelkerlitigationgroup.com/christopher-columbus-lawsuits-a-legal-assessment.html