Divorce dispute over Jackson Pollock collage returns to court

A long-running dispute over a Jackson Pollock collage has found its way back to court again, as legal proceedings continue over the high-profile divorce former state senator Alexandra Kasser and Morgan Stanley executive Seth Bergstein.

Matthew Mochary, Kasser’s brother, argues that the signed, untitled mixed-media collage from around 1943, estimated at around $175,000 and purchased in 1978, was a gift from his mother in 1996 (as part of a fractional ownership transfer taking place within a number of years) and remains its property. He claims he loaned the work to the former couple to display at their $6 million home on Lake Avenue in Greenwich, Connecticut in 2016 on the understanding that it would be “insured, properly maintained and returned on demand”.

Conversely, Bergstein argues that the artwork was in fact a gift, co-ownership within the marriage, and therefore he retains a claim on it (to be considered in divorce court).

Last week, a decision by a New York Federal Court of Appeals overseen by Circuit Judges Dennis Jacobs, Rosemary S. Pooler and Richard C. Wesley found that Mochary could continue his legal battle separately from the divorce trial, which is due to begin in October. . This essentially reverses an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden in Connecticut who, in August 2021, dismissed an attempt to play the ownership battle over the Pollock outside of divorce proceedings.

Bergstein initially refused to return the painting following the divorce filing, which was initiated in 2018, with Mochary filing a lawsuit in 2020 alleging conversion, replevin and statutory theft. The claim alleged that the defendant did not “properly care for the Collage, causing serious and permanent damage to it” and the two parties later agreed to have the work examined by an art restorer and to move the item to an art warehouse – where he currently resides – until his status as owner is confirmed.

“We are pleased with the Second Circuit’s decision and Mr. Mochary looks forward to fully asserting his rights in the District Court,” said Steven Frederick, of Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky, who is representing the plaintiff in this case. . “The case is important to Mr. Mochary because it allows the adjudication of ownership of the Pollack to occur outside the context of contentious divorce proceedings, which involve many issues other than the ownership of this room. “

The case must now return to the district courts to resume consideration of the rightful owner of the collage. Bergstein’s legal representative did not respond to our request for comment.

The original claim describes a series of loans of the collage to museums in Austria, Arizona and Oklahoma, while also detailing a 2004 loan agreement to the Kasser Foundation.

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