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

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

Harrow, Gustave

Lawyer

Collection Information

Size: 34.2 linear feet

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.

Provenance

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

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.

Funding

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

A Finding Aid to the Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko
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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 committed suicide 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.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged in 7 series.
Series 1: General Files, 1957-1981, undated
Series 2: Motions, 1971-1979, undated
Series 3: Decisions, 1970-1979, undated
Series 4: Appeals Documents, 1972-1979, undated
Series 5: Miscellaneous Case and Post-Trial files, 1972-1984, undated
Series 6: Reference Materials, Notes and Writings, 1970-1986
Series 7: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Walter Annenberg Etc., 1971-1981, undated
Provenance
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.
Processing Information note
The collection was re-boxed by C. Spaeth in 1996. The collection was minimally processed and a finding aid created by Valerie Vanden Bossche in 2013 with funding provided by the Collections Care Pool Fund. Note that many of the original folders had unidentified numbers in addition to the master numbering system, these were transcribed exactly from the original folders.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko, 1957-1986. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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