Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Art dealer wins £8m court battle over sale of £130m painting to emir of Qatar

UK court rules former Sotheby’s chairman should be paid £8m in commission over sale of one of the world’s most expensive paintings

"Nafea Faa Ipoipo" : When will you marry? Painting by Paul Gauguin's painting "Nafea Faa Ipoipo" : When will you marry? was one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. (Getty Images)
"Nafea Faa Ipoipo" : When will you marry? Painting by Paul Gauguin's painting "Nafea Faa Ipoipo" : When will you marry? was one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. (Getty Images)

A former Sotheby’s chairman has won a legal battle with his childhood friend over the sale of one of the world’s most expensive paintings to the emir of Qatar.

Swiss art collector Ruedi Staechelin had reneged on a handshake deal to pay £7.7miliion (Dh36.3million) commission to his childhood friend Simon de Pury, the former chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and board director at Gucci, for his role in the sale of Paul Gauguin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?).

It was sold for £130million (Dh612.9million) to Qatari Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2014.

On Wednesday, Britain’s highest court ruled in favour of Mr de Pury in the dispute.

Commenting on the ruling, Mr de Pury said: “The integrity of a handshake deal in the art world has been upheld.”

In a long-running dispute over the payment it was claimed Mr Staechelin had used the services of his old school friend Mr de Pury to negotiate the deal, according to court documents.

But Mr Staechelin, the grandson of renowned art collector and businessman Rudolf Staechelin, had refused to pay Mr de Pury the commission.

A hearing last year ordering the commission to be paid to Mr de Pury and his wife Michaela was then appealed by Mr Staechelin.

The appeal was dismissed by Lord Justice Lewison at the Royal Courts of Justice this week.

In a statement, Mr de Pury said: “I am delighted that the appeal to overturn the judgment in our favour has been unanimously rejected by the three appeal judges.

“Once again, my role and the one of Michaela in this transaction, has been fully recognised and the integrity of a handshake deal in the art world has been upheld.

“It is regrettable that for the first time in my long career in the art market, I was forced to take legal action against anyone, and in this case, a childhood friend.”

“I am proud of my role in the sale of one of the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold for $210 million.”

Mr Staechelin had argued he had not been informed of possible higher offers for the painting, voiding any agreement they had.

Updated: May 16, 2019 08:32 PM

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