Legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko, 1957-1986

Harrow, Gustave
Active in New York, N.Y.

Collection size: 34.2 linear feet

Collection Summary: New York State Attorney General Gustave Harrow's records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko consist of legal and other documentation of the state's case in connection with the Mark Rothko Estate and Foundation, from Surrogate Court through appeals, as well as from Harrow's writings about the case, both during and after the trial. Various trial documents include affidavits, briefs, EBTs (examination before trial) trial transcripts, motions, depositions, notes and clippings, and miscellaneous records related to the case and post-trial activities. Also found are reference materials, Harrow's writings in connection with the case.

Unrelated to the Rothko case are Harrow's research materials for possible legal actions by the state in connection with Walter Annenberg's proposed donation of a Communication Center to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and with other issues including donations, object authenticity and the Packard Collection.

Biographical/Historical Note: Gustave Harrow, a lawyer and Assistant New York State Attorney General, taught legal ethics and art law at New York University, where he also served as adjunct professor in the Arts Administration program in the School of Education. Mark Rothko was an Abstract Expressisonist painter who committed suicide in 1970. Rothko's heirs, represented by Harrow, accused the executors not only of mismanaging the estate but also of conspiring with the Marlborough Gallery in Manhattan to defraud it. The case, presided over by Judge Millard Midonick, New York State Surrogate Court in 1975, and followed by appeals to the State Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, New York State, resulted in a $9.2 million judgement against the gallery and the three executors. In 1979, Harrow published a book on the trial, Art, the Artists, and the Consequences of Rothko : Lasting Legal Impressions From the Estate of a Great Artist.

The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko were donated to the Archives of American Art by Marilynn Karp March 23, 1996. Mr. Harrow had deposited the papers with Ms. Karp, a colleague of Harrow's at New York University where he was an adjunct professor.

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

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Also in the Archives

Related Materials

Another small collection (11 items) of Mark Rothko papers were loaned to the Archives for microfilming on reel 3135. The papers were in the possession of George Carson, husband of Rothko's ex-wife Edith Carson. Carson gave the papers to the Mark Rothko Foundation and gave the Archives of American Art permission to microfilm them. The microfilm is available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan but are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are the Mark Rothko Foundation records, 1976-1987; Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987.
The Archives of American Art interviewed multiple artists as part of the Mark Rothko and His Times Oral History Project. Many of the interviews reference Rothko and his work, and relationships with the artist.
The Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987 contains documentation of another lawsuit handled by Gustave Harrow.