By Samuel Maull
By Samuel Maull
Â Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK CITY (AP) â An art gallery has sued Christieâs auction house and a man who tried to sell a $100,000 Andy Warhol painting that the gallery reported stolen nearly ten years ago.
Martin Lawrence Galleries says in court papers that the 1981 artwork, known as the Warhol âDollar Sign,â was stolen with another Warhol painting from its New York showroom on February 14, 1998. The gallery says it reported the theft to police and to the Art Loss Register.
The missing âDollar Signâ artwork is one of a number of paintings on the same theme in different colors and sizes. Photographs of the canvases show a stylized dollar sign colored with streaky, polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.
In February 2006, a âDollar Signâ series painting sold for $4.5 million in London.
In September 2007, court papers say, Jason Beltrez tried to consign the Warhol work to Christieâs Inc for sale. Christieâs, as is its practice, asked the Art Loss Register to check the painting against its database of lost and stolen artworks.
An ALR historian said the Beltrez consignment was the âDollar Signâ that had been stolen from the Martin Lawrence gallery in 1998, says the lawsuit, filed February 4 in Manhattanâs state Supreme Court.
And in October 2007, a curator from the galleryâs parent, Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts Inc, confirmed the canvas was the stolen Warhol, court papers say.
Christieâs still has the painting, whose value is estimated at more than $100,000, court papers say.
Christieâs associate general counsel Keith Carlisle issued a statement saying, âChristieâs is a disinterested third party in this lawsuit and is unable to comment on the pending litigation. We are simply storing the work of art until the lawsuit is resolved.â
Martin Lawrence president Eric Dannemann issued a statement through his lawyer Joel Lever, saying he was pleased that the artwork had been recovered. Telephone calls to Beltrez and to his lawyer were not immediately returned.
Warhol, who made a career of turning famous faces and everyday objects such as Campbellâs soup cans and Coke bottles into pop art, died in 1987.