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Matter of Estate of Rothko

Court of Appeals of New York
372 N.E.2d 291 (1977)


Mark Rothko was a famous painter. Rothko’s estate included hundreds of extremely valuable paintings. Bernard Reis, Theodoros Stamos, and Morton Levine (“the executors”) were appointed executors of Rothko’s estate. The executors quickly sold all of the paintings to Marlborough A.G. (“MAG”) and Marlborough Gallery, Inc. (“MNY”) (together, “Marlborough”) for less than their actual value. The contract with MNY also allowed MNY to receive a very large commission on any painting it sold. Reis was a director, secretary, and treasurer of MNY. Stamos was an artist under contract with Marlborough, which purchased one of Stamos’s paintings during contract negotiations with the estate. Rothko’s children, Kate and Christopher Rothko (plaintiffs), brought suit against the executors and Marlborough (defendants). The lower court held the executors and Marlborough liable and voided the sale contracts. The court also imposed appreciation damages against Reis, Stamos, MAG, and MNY equal to the difference between the sale price of the paintings and the actual appreciated value of the paintings as of the time of the trial. The executors and Marlborough appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cooke, J.)

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