Stallone Files $5-Million Suit Against N.Y. Art Consultant
Actor Sylvester Stallone filed a $5-million civil fraud suit Tuesday against his New York art consultant, Barbara Guggenheim, claiming that he overpaid for art and sold it for less than market value on her advice.
The suit filed in Superior Court charges that Guggenheim prompted Stallone to overpay for a damaged oil painting by calling it a “masterpiece” and that she defrauded him in several other transactions.
In the complaint, Stallone said he and Guggenheim agreed in 1984 that she would give the actor advice on buying and selling his art collection and would try to maximize profits for Stallone, including accepting a commission rate of 5% and selling his works only to individuals rather than dealers.
In January, 1988, Guggenheim told Stallone that an oil painting by the 19th-Century French painter Adolphe William Bouguereau titled “Pieta” was available for sale. Guggenheim told the actor that the work “was a masterpiece painting and was the finest representation of Bouguereau in the world,” the suit said.
Stallone purchased the work sight unseen for $1.7 million after Guggenheim told him another potential buyer in Florida was bidding. The art consultant collected an $85,000 commission on the sale, the suit said.
Stallone now claims that before he bought the painting he discovered it had been owned by Stewart Pivar, another private art dealer in New York and a friend of Guggenheim. Pivar, the suit said, “had attempted for a substantial period of time to sell the Bouguereau and was unsuccessful until Guggenheim made the representations to induce Stallone to buy it.”
After buying the painting, Stallone discovered it had “several large slashes which would have been apparent upon an examination by Guggenheim” and “a minimum of 25-30% of the painting had been restored and or retouched.”
Stallone’s attorney, Martin D. Singer, said someone had recently offered $400,000 for the painting.
Works by Bouguereau have never sold at the $1 million level even in the inflated art market of the late 1980s, art industry insiders said. Rock star Madonna had considered buying the “Pieta” but was dissuaded by her private dealer, who felt the painting had been too heavily damaged, said one art dealer.
An industry source said Stallone paid more than $1 million for a work by Anselm Kiefer, German contemporary painter, on Guggenheim’s advice and the painting has begun to disintegrate.
Guggenheim could not be reached for comment at the New York offices of Barbara Guggenheim Associates Inc.