Philbrick case: art investors join the prosecution

"Humidity" (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat is shown in this undated handout photo released to the media on Nov. 15, 2012. An acrylic, oilstick and Xerox collage on canvas was estimated at $12 million to $18 million. Source: Phillips de Pury via Bloomberg

After the fraudulent dealer is detained by the FBI, the court decides the ownership of the works he sold twice. A few weeks after Inigo Philbrick, an art dealer accused of embezzlement of more than $ 20 million and fraud, including the sale of works of art to multiple buyers at once, was arrested by the FBI, the consequences of his activities are still being examined in the courts of various instances.

So, at the end of July, two large financial companies entered into a legal dispute over the possession of an eight-figure work by Jean-Michel Basquiat: Satfinance, owned by British investor and collector Sasha Pesko, and the investment group Athena Art Finance. According to the materials of the case considered by the US federal court, in 2016, Pesco, at the request of Philbrick, invested $ 12.2 million in the Basquiat painting, believing that in the future, he would receive ownership of the painting and profits from its further resale. Philbrick then used Basquiat’s work as collateral to secure $ 14 million from Athena Art Finance.

Philbrick case: art investors join the prosecution
Inigo Philbrick, an art dealer

Sometime after receiving the money, Philbrick organized a display of Basquiat’s “Humidity” at the artist’s exhibition at the Tokyo Museum as a measure to promote and increase the potential value of the artist’s painting on the market. Pesco, believing that the painting partly belonged to him, gave permission for the exhibition and ensured the departure of the painting from the country. But he could not take it away. From the museum, Basquiat’s painting ended up in one of the unnamed repositories of Athena Art Finance, where it is currently located. The company plans to sell the work to recover some of the millions given to Philbrick. There is no question of returning Pesco’s money.

Philbrick case: art investors join the prosecution
British investor and collector Sasha Pesko

Athena Art Finance knew or should have known that Philbrick did not own the $ 30 million artwork, including Basquiat’s work, which he intended to use as collateral. Verifying all the necessary facts about the borrower before obtaining a loan demonstrates its willingness to ignore this huge “red flag” in order to obtain significant (and profitable) collateral and expand its business opportunities.

In this regard, Satfinance accuses Athena Art Finance of holding someone else’s property and aiding Philbrick’s machinations. The case file explicitly states that the lending institution’s specialists encouraged Philbrick to use Basquiat’s work as collateral, despite the fact that they knew that Philbrick was not the only owner of the painting.


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