Long-Smoldering Vasarely Family Feud Erupts Again Over the Op Art Pioneer’s Show at a London Gallery

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The London gallery Mazzoleni Art has been caught up in a long-standing family feud among the descendants of the Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely, after putting up ten of his works for sale in a special exhibition. “Einstein in the Sky with Diamonds,” a show dedicated to the “grandfather” of the Op Art movement, is on view at the gallery’s Old Bond Street location through December 16. 

The Vasarely Foundation, which is led by the artist’s grandson Pierre Vasarely, has accused the gallery of attempting to sell works that rightfully belong to the foundation, according to The Art Newspaper. This allegation is only the latest in a long-running dispute over the ownership of two works in the London show. 

Michèle Taburno, Victor Vasarely’s daughter-in-law (from his younger son’s second marriage) and Pierre’s stepmother, has been identified as the consignor of the two paintings. They belong to a larger group that has been in her possession for years, but the works’ provenance and rightful ownership has repeatedly been called into question. 

“Those [works] belonged to the foundation from 1975 to 1995,” Taburno told . “In 1995, they were attributed to the two heirs of the artist, his two sons. In 1997, the two heirs gave those works to me.” She also claimed that she had been legally awarded these works in 2008, following a dispute in court between her and Pierre. 

In another version of events, the works belong to the foundation but may have somehow been caught up in a major scandal that saw the foundation’s former president Charles Debbasch, active in the 1980s, convicted and imprisoned for embezzlement and selling off works to galleries on the side. Taburno allegedly moved these works to Puerto Rico and has been selling them through her business partner, Luis Rojas-Buscaglia. 

According to Pierre, a total of 600 works were illegally transferred to the U.S. and then Puerto Rico in 2012. He added that, in 2013, French courts ordered that 200 paintings in Taburno’s possession in Puerto Rico be returned to the foundation, but she did not comply. 

“What I wish is for my stepmother to execute the judiciary ruling,” Pierre said. “It is not me; it’s not anyone else; it’s the French justice system, who are asking a French person who lives abroad to return expert works to France.” 

In rebuttal, Taburno said: “I have so many documents proving my ownership. The federal court decision was that during four years of inquiry, Pierre Vasarely, who was accusing me, did not bring any proof that could sustain his allegations.”

A spokesperson for Mazzoleni said the gallery was “saddened by the succession dispute between Pierre Vasarely and his family which has regretfully been going on for decades, to the detriment of Victor Vasarely’s reputation.”

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