Barbara Mathes Gallery records pertaining to "Rio Nero" lawsuit, 1989-1995

A Finding Aid to the Barbara Mathes Gallery Records Pertaining to Rio Nero Lawsuit, 1989-1995, in the Archives of American Art, by Carla De Luise

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Table of Contents:

Historical Information

In 1959 Alexander Calder (1898-1976) created a black metal mobile titled Rio Nero which collector Lionel Bauman purchased from the Perls Galleries, New York City (1967). Patricia Bauman received Rio Nero from her father's estate in 1989 and consigned the mobile to the Herbert Palmer Gallery in Los Angeles and L & R Entwistle and Co., Ltd. in London. The Greenberg Gallery, Saint Louis, Missouri, purchased the mobile for $500,000 from L & R Entwistle in March 1990. The Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York; Donald Morris Gallery, Inc., Birmingham, Michigan; and John C. Stoller & Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota, each acquired a twenty-five percent share in the mobile from the Greenberg Gallery.

In May 1990, the gallery owners saw the mobile for the first time and noticed that the work neither hung properly nor moved in a manner consistent with other Calder mobiles. In December 1990, the owners asked Klaus Perls, the noted authority on Calder and the artist's primary dealer from 1955-1976, to authenticate the Rio Nero mobile. After Perls deemed the work a forgery, Patricia Bauman declined to reverse the sale and the four galleries instituted legal proceedings. The plaintiffs, Greenberg Gallery et al., contended that Patricia Bauman, or someone acting on her behalf, switched the original mobile with a forgery and then presented it to L & R Entwistle as a Calder mobile.

In April 1993, the case was tried without a jury in Washington, D. C. and the Federal District Court awarded judgment to the defendants, Patricia Bauman and L & R Entwistle. The judge presiding over the case, Judge Oberdorfer, ruled out the testimony of Klaus Perls and the plaintiffs subsequently appealed the case. In 1994, the Alexander and Louisa Calder Foundation declined to include the mobile in the catalogue raisonné on the artist. On appeal, judgment was not overturned.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Barbara Mathes Gallery records pertaining to Rio Nero lawsuit measure 1.4 linear feet and date from 1989-1995. The collection, assembled by Barbara Mathes, relates to the lawsuit Greenberg Gallery, Inc., et al. v. Patricia Bauman, et al. regarding the authentication of the Alexander Calder mobile Rio Nero. The Barbara Mathes Gallery, co-owner of the mobile was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The files contain correspondence between co-owners of the mobile, letters and accompanying legal documents from their attorney, purchase and shipment records, and invoices for legal fees. Legal documents are comprised of depositions, findings of fact, transcripts of proceedings, trial exhibits, and appeal briefs. Printed material includes clippings and magazine articles relating to the trial. The collection also contains photographs of the mobile.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as four series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents and under "Names" when they are creators or contributors.


  • Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976
  • Bauman, Patricia
  • Howard Greenberg Gallery (New York, N.Y.)


  • Art galleries, Commercial--New York (State)--New York

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Legal documents


  • Mathes, Barbara


The papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Barbara Mathes in 2005.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Carla De Luise in 2007.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Barbara Mathes Gallery records pertaining to Rio Nero lawsuit are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

The Barbara Mathes Gallery records pertaining to Rio Nero lawsuit, 1989-1995. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1989-1995
(Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)

Correspondence is primarily between defendants Barbara Mathes, Ronald Greenberg, Donald Morris, and John C. Stoller, principals in the galleries that purchased the Rio Nero mobile and plaintiffs in the case against Patricia Bauman et al. Included are letters and legal documents from their attorney.

Letters between Barbara Mathes and Meredith Palmer, director of the Herbert Palmer Gallery, concern the appraisal of Lionel Bauman's collection in 1987. This series also contains purchase and shipment receipts for Rio Nero, invoices for legal services and a photocopy of a letter from Alexander S. C. Rower, written on behalf of the Calder Foundation in 1994, in which Rower declines to include the mobile in the catalogue raisonné on the artist.

Material within folders is arranged chronologically.

1 (hol) General, 1989-1995, undated
(5 folders)
1 (hol) Appeal, 1991-1994, undated
1 (hol) Invoices for Legal Fees, 1991-1993, undated
1 (hol) Purchase of Rio Nero, 1990-1991, undated
1 (hol) Shipment of Rio Nero, 1990-1994, undated

Series 2: Legal Documents, 1991-1994
(Box 2; 0.9 linear feet)

This series contains depositions, findings of fact, transcripts of proceedings, trial exhibits, judge's memorandum and opinion, and appeal briefs.

The deposition of Andre Emmerich, prominent gallery owner and President of the Board of Directors of the Art Dealers Association of America, credits Klaus Perls as a Calder expert.

Additional legal documents may be found in Series 1: Correspondence.

Documents are organized by sequence of events and material within folders is arranged chronologically. Depositions are arranged alphabetically by last name.

2 Depositions
2 Patricia Bauman, 1991
2 Laurence Casper, 1992
2 Andre Emmerich, 1992
2 Lance Entwistle, 1992
2 Roberta Entwistle, 1992
2 Barbara Mathes, 1991
2 Donald Morris, 1991
2 Klaus Perls, 1991
2 Proposed Findings of Fact, 1992
2 Findings of Fact, 1992
2 Transcript of Proceedings
2 Transcript, 1993, March 16
2 Transcript, 1993, March 17
2 Transcript, 1993, March 18
2 Transcript, 1993, March 19
2 Trial Exhibits and Exhibits List, 1993
2 Memorandum and Opinion of Judge, 1993, April 1
2 Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellants, 1994, May 18
2 Brief of Amici Curiae, 1994, May 18
2 Brief of Defendant-Appellee, 1994, June 17
2 Reply Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellants, 1994, July 1

Series 3: Printed Material, 1993-1995
(Box 2; 1 folder)

This series contains newspaper, magazine and journal clippings relating to the Rio Nero trial.

Material within the folder is arranged chronologically.

2 Clippings, 1993-1995, undated

Series 4: Photographs, 1989-1993
(Box 2; 2 folders)

This series houses photographs and negatives of the contested mobile Rio Nero. The verso of one of the photographs is the handwritten, signed, and dated certification by Klaus Perls that the mobile is a forgery.

2 Photographs and Negatives, Rio Nero, 1989-1993, undated
2 Photographs, Rio Nero, undated