Ex Collectio: The Bernard Madoff Provenance Project

UPDATE: There is now a Google Doc, your one-stop source for Madoff Provenance information. Have a detail? Send it in!

Last month I proposed that the specific artworks which had once belonged to Bernard Madoff be forever associated with him, that he and his various corporate entities become an inextricable element of their history, discourse, and meaning.

For the most part, Madoff collected prints and multiples from large editions. There are usually dozens of identical examples of each artwork he collected; they're true investment-grade commodities. However, Bernard Madoff's ownership of these examples differentiates them and renders them unique among their editions. How does the historical fact that these specific artworks were owned by the perpetrator of one of the financial industry's biggest frauds affect their engagement with the art market, the art audience, and the critical structures of the art world? We shall find out.

study_for_ex-collectio_madoff_stamp.jpg
Study for Ex-Collectio MADF Stamp, 2014, digitally manipulated photocollage

Seven of the 53 artworks listed in the US attorney's inventory of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Services, plus one additional work, are being sold by the bankruptcy trustee at Sotheby's on May 1st.

Their lot and edition numbers are documented below, along with edition and title information for previously sold Madoff artworks whose court inventory entries were incomplete.

In accordance with art market, conservation, and art historical practice, I have created a stamp to indicate these works once belonged to Bernard Madoff and/or his corporate entities. I hereby issue an open invitation to all owners, buyers, dealers, agents and conservators handling these artworks, to accurately reflect their history, significance, and provenance by having them stamped. I am happy to provide this service, upon review, authentication, and mutual agreement, for no charge within New York City or the Hamptons or, upon prior arrangement, at art fairs in Basel, London, or Miami Beach. For other locales or times, please contact me directly. I'm sure we can work it out. This offer applies only to artworks which can be documented through court and/or auction records as having been in the collection of Bernard Madoff. No frauds or phonies.

madoff_matisse_jazz_formes_pl_ix.jpg

Not in Inv.
Lot 41 Henri Matisse, FORMES, PL. IX (FROM JAZZ), 1947, pochoir print of "plate IX of XX from the edition of 100 (total edition includes the book edition of 250 with a central fold), on Arches wove paper, published by Tériade, Paris."


madoff_2_baldessari_two_sets.jpg

Inv #2
Lot 158 John Baldessari, TWO SETS (ONE WITH BENCH), 1989-90, "inscribed 'PP 3/5', a printer's proof aside from the numbered edition of 45 (total edition includes 11 artist's proofs), on Somerset paper, with the blindstamp of the printer, Branstead Studio, New York, published by Brooke Alexander Editions, New York."

madoff_3_jennifer_bartlett_rhapsody.jpg

Inv. #3
Lot 159 Jennifer Bartlett, RHAPSODY: HOUSE, TREES, BEACH, BIRD, 1985, four etchings, "each signed in pencil on the verso, dated and numbered 65/100, annotated 'A - D', on T. H. Saunders paper, published by Harry N. Abrams, New York."

madoff_5_christo_wrapped_building.jpg

Inv. #5
Lot 164 Christo, WRAPPED BUILDING, PROJECT FOR 1 TIMES SQUARE, ALLIED CHEMICAL TOWER, NEW YORK (S. 154), 1991, lithograph, collage, photo, "signed in pencil, numbered 119/125 (total edition includes 35 artist's proofs), on Arches Cover mounted on museum board (as issued), published by Saint-Guillaume Gallery, Tokyo."

madoff_7_diebenkorn_two_way_ii.jpg

Inv. #7
Lot 170, Richard Diebenkorn, TWO WAY II, 1982, etching, aquatint, and drypoint "initialed in pencil, dated and numbered 'AP 10', one of ten artist's proofs aside from the numbered edition of 40, on Rives BFK paper, published by Crown Point Press, Oakland."

Inv. #23
Lot 271, Claes Oldenburg, SOFT SCREW (GEMINI 705), 1976, "Black cast elastometric urethane sculpture on rotating base of black painted mahogany, with the artist's cast signature, dated (1975) and numbered 15/24 on the base on the head of the screw, published by Gemini G.E.L."

madoff_27_larry_rivers_on_the_phone.jpg

Inv. #27 & 28
Lot 286 Larry Rivers, ON THE PHONE (LARGE), 1981-82, "signed and dated in pencil, numbered 50/52, published by Marlborough Graphics, New York, on wove paper.

madoff_28_rosenquist_woman_in_sun.jpg

also James Rosenquist, WOMAN IN THE SUN, 1991, signed, dated and titled in white crayon, numbered 30/60 (total edition includes 20 artist's proofs), published by Tyler Graphics Ltd., with their blindstamp, on Rives BFK wove paper.


In addition, 20 works previously owned by Madoff were sold at Sotheby's in Sept-Nov. 2013. The lot/artist/title/date/edition number info not included in the court inventory is recorded below.

madoff_robert_cottingham_fleishman.jpg

Inv. #6
14 Nov 2013 Contemporary Day Sale, Lot 295 Robert Cottingham, Fleishman, 1982, oil on canvas.

madoff_sol_lewitt_18_of_20.jpg

Inv. #15
25 Sept 2013 Contemporary Day Sale, Lot 376, Sol Lewitt, Wall Piece (Sixteen Modules High), 1988, painted wood, number 18 from an edition of 20 plus 9 APs, Edition Schellmann

Inv. #15 & #22
31 Oct 2013 Prints Sale, Lot 325, two works: Brice Marden, Untitled (Lewison 22) from Adriatics, 1973, etching, AP 4 from ed. 40 [not ed. 35, as inventory suggests], Parasol Press; and Louise Nevelson, Untitled [titled Dawn's Presence in inventory], 1976, cast paper relief, no. 49 of edition 75.

madoff_matisse_tete_a_la_frange.jpg

Inv. #20
07 Nov 2013 Imp Mod Day Sale Lot 371, Henri Matisse TÊTE À LA FRANGE, 1952, Charcoal on paper, signed with initials H.M. [Listed in court inv. as Tete de Femme.]

madoff_twombly_untitled_1971.jpg

Inv. #33
31 Oct 2013 Prints Sale Lot 366 Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bastian 37), 1971, offset litho, "initialed in pencil on the verso, dated and numbered 94/100, on wove paper, published by Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris." [Court inv. listed edition size as 125.]

madoff_warhol_greenstamps.jpg

Inv. #34
31 Oct 2013 Prints Sale, Lot 372, Andy Warhol, S & H Greenstamps, litho, 1965, "from the unfolded edition of approx. 300," ICA Phila, no mention of signature or number; though the court inventory mentions both on the verso, framed.

madoff_warhol_chicken_dumplings.jpg

Inv. #35
31 Oct 2013 Prints Sale, Lot 374, Andy Warhol, Chicken 'N Dumplings, 1969 screenprint, signed and stamped number 200/250, Factory Additions.

Madoff Provenance Project spreadsheet collecting information on all known art objects from Madoff's collection [docs.google.com]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
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first published: April 23, 2014.

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