A London art gallery is fighting a High Court case brought by a buyer who claims he overpaid for two multi-million euro Old Master paintings after the gallery hid information from him.
Anglo-American entrepreneur and investor, Gary Klesch, purchased the works from Richard Green Fine Paintings at TEFAF Maastricht in 2018. He bought Jan Brueghel the Elder’s ‘River Landscape with Fishers and a Cart’ (ca. 1600-1670) for €3 million (£2.6 million) and Salomon van Ruysdael’s ‘Winter Landscape with Figures Skating and Sleigh-Riding Outside a Town, with the Utrecht Dom and Huis Groenwoude at Right’ (1568-1625) for €2 million (£1.7 million).
In November 2018, Klesch, the founder of industrial commodities firm Klesch Group, filed a claim alleging the gallery failed to apprise him of the much lower prices for which the paintings changed hands at auction in 2017. ‘River Landscape’ sold for €1.46 million (£1.3 million) at Lempertz Auction House in Cologne in November 2017. ‘Winter Landscape’ was acquired for US$882,500 (£676,461) at Sotheby’s New York in June 2017.
Klesch contends that Richard Green omitted this sale information from the “provenance listings” for the works when they were shown at TEFAF in order to “minimise the likelihood of a potential buyer ascertaining the price at which the defendant had recently acquired the paintings and then using such information to negotiate a reduced purchase price”. He is seeking to rescind the sale or otherwise claim damages.
Richard Green plans to defend the claim arguing provenance is “a history of ownership not an auction record”, and that dealers are under no obligation to provide potential buyers with information about how they source works for sale. The dealer told reporters that Klesch negotiated the purchase of the works at its stand at TEFAF and the Klesch family office review and signed its terms and conditions.
Director of Richard Green, Jonathan Green, also explained that the art gallery had secured the paintings at much cheaper prices in 2017 as a result of the circumstances of those auctions and the condition of the works. Their TEFAF price tags were justified by the values placed on the artists, comparable works by the same artists and the dealer’s belief that they were considered “fantastic examples of their work”. “Where we bought the works is not relevant”, Jonathan Green stated, “as for any retailer we don’t have to reveal our sources”.
In his claim, Klesch states that were it not for the information provided by Richard Green, he would have investigated “the complete provenance” of the artworks.