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Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko, 1957-1986

Harrow, Gustave


Collection Information

Size: 34.6 Linear feet

Summary: The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko measure 34.6 linear feet and date from 1957-1986. The records document the case brought by the New York State Attorney General's Office as cross-petitioner to the case brought by Rothko's daughter Kate, against the executors of Rothko's estate, Frank Lloyd and the Marlborough Gallery, for mismanagement and self-dealing. There are also records related to Harrow's writings about the case. Lastly, included in the collection are materials relating to art law issues in connection with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Biographical/Historical Note

Gustave Harrow was a New York State Assistant Attorney General, and an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program in Arts Administration at NYU. Abstract Expressionist Artist Mark Rothko died on February 25, 1970 leaving the bulk of his estate, including 798 paintings (the greater part of his life's work) to the Mark Rothko Foundation which he had created shortly before his death. His daughter Kate [Rothko Prizel] brought suit against the estate executors and Marlborough Gallery for self-dealing, fraud, and conspiring with Marlborough owner, Frank Lloyd to waste the assets of the estate. The state of New York Attorney General's Office, represented by Harrow, joined the case as a cross-petitioner on behalf of the people of New York's interest as beneficiaries of the charitable Foundation. The case resulted in the return of most of the paintings, the removal of the executors (accountant Bernard Reis, artist Theodoros Stamos, and anthropology professor Morton Levine), and a $9.2 million judgment against them and Frank Lloyd. The case had a lasting effect on laws dealing with artists' estates, and Harrow was instrumental in framing a bill that aimed at reducing fraud in the fine arts market. Harrow wrote about the Rothko Estate case in several articles and in the 1979 book Art, the Artist, and the Consequences of Rothko: Lasting Legal Impressions from the Estate of 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.

Related Materials

Language Note

The collection is in English.


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