UPPER WEST SIDE — A Manhattan real estate agent wants answers from his gallerista step-sister on why she hawked a family-owned painting by a renowned abstract artist last year for a measly $375,000 when it re-sold months later for millions.
Cyrus Greenspon claims in court papers that her step-sister's mega-cheap sell-off of their late dad's Ad Reinhardt painting was shady and a conflict of interest — namely because she got her former boss, the president of swanky Pace Gallery, to vouch for its low value and had a friend and former colleague buy it.
Just months later, in June, gallery owner David Zwirner sold the artwork, known as "Blue Painting," in less than an hour at the Art Basel fair in Switzerland for between $5 million and $10 million, according to reports.
"I find it highly questionable that this piece of art was sold for $375,000," Greenspon said in a petition, pointing out that his step-sister, Amy Greenspon, and Zwirner know each other.
"It is unknown to me how Mr. Zwirner came to be in possession of the painting or whether Amy Greenspon was involved in the sale," he added.
Cyrus Greenspon claims in the court papers that he and his brother have been kept in the dark about their dad's estate since he died in 2006. Their father, William Stuart Greenspon, was an Upper West Side doctor and art collector who owned two paintings by Reinhardt, who is considered one of the fathers of the Minimalist movement.
After William Greenspon died, his wife, Virginia Cleary was named the administrator of the estate. Cyrus claims in court papers that Cleary is in extremely poor health and her daughter, Amy, has been handling the estate's affairs for her without clueing in the step-brothers.
In the petition, filed last week in Manhattan Surrogate's Court, Cyrus asks that a judge make him the new administrator of the estate and demands compensation from Cleary for letting Amy sell the Reinhardt painting so cheaply.
"It is my belief that her conduct has resulted in enormous damage to the estate," he said in the petition.
The petition says that, about a year ago, Cleary's lawyer told Cyrus and his brother that Amy, who co-owns a West Village gallery, planned to sell the "Blue Painting" for $375,000. The brothers objected to the private sale, preferring that the 1950s monochrome painting go to auction, but they were overruled, the petition says.
The brothers were later told the painting had been sold to James Lindon, Amy's friend who had worked with her at Pace Gallery, according to the petition.
Amy also supported the low price of the painting by obtaining a letter from Pace Gallery president Marc Glimcher, who wrote that the art piece had no value.
"It should be noted that Amy worked at Pace Gallery for Marc Glimcher for a number of years," Cyrus said in the petition.
The petition also notes that Sotheby's placed the artwork's value at $300,000, but the auction house's appraisal was based on an inspection of a photograph of the painting. Another appraisal, by the Internal Revenue Service for estate tax purposes, pegged the painting's value at $900,000.
Cyrus said that in June the painting somehow ended up in the hands of Zwirner, who sold it at Art Basel. A Bloomberg News report at the time noted that the piece sold so quickly that billionaire hedge-funder and vaunted art collector Steven Cohen missed out on bidding on it by a few minutes.
The petition also claims that Amy mishandled the sale of their dad's other Reinhardt painting. That painting sold for $2.3 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2007. Cyrus claims that Sotheby's offered the family a guaranteed sale of $3 million, but Amy turned down the offer against the advice of the estate's lawyer, costing them an extra $700,000.
Amy declined to comment for the story.
A lawyer for Cyrus also declined to comment.