The Helly Nahmad Gallery canceled a major exhibition titled “Monet Richter” and scheduled to open during next week’s semi-annual art auctions, following charges of racketeering and money laundering against its owner.
“The ‘Monet Richter’ show has been postponed,” said Benjamin Brafman, co-counsel for gallery owner Hillel Nahmad, in an e-mail. Brafman declined to comment on what caused the change of plans and whether another date has been set.
The show, with loans from U.S. and European museums, was supposed to open on May 10 and run through June 10, according to a full-page ad in the May issue of Art & Auction magazine, coinciding with the Impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions in New York.
The plan was scrapped after police raided the gallery and 34-year-old Nahmad, known as Helly, was charged on April 16 by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with running a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy. Nahmad was among 34 people charged with operating two overlapping gambling rings.
In addition, Nahmad himself will not attend Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, next month, Brafman said. As part of his bail, Nahmad surrendered his U.S., Italian and Brazilian passports and his travel is restricted to the southern and eastern districts of New York, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The gallery is still expected to participate, according to an Art Basel representative.
The “Monet Richter” show was to include paintings by Gerhard Richter from the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Albertina in Vienna and the Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany, according to the artist’s official website.
Horst Koppelstaetter, a spokesman for the Frieder Burda, said the exhibition was canceled shortly after the police raid. The museum had planned to lend the 1997 “Abstract Painting, Lake.”
“Our picture was not sent off,” Koppelstaetter said, in a telephone interview.
The Hirshhorn Museum had considered lending its 1988 “Sanctuary,” but “now that won’t be,” said Glenn Dixon, the museum spokesman.
The Albertina’s 1986 “Abstract Painting” and 1999 “Summer Day” were also to be included in the show.
“These loans were indeed supposed to be going to New York,” Sarah Wulbrandt, spokeswoman for the Albertina, said in an e-mail “The exhibition was canceled by the Helly Nahmad Gallery.”
Such exhibitions are mainly branding exercises and rarely involve sales. Many museums that lend art to galleries require the shows to be of an educational rather than commercial nature, said Maxwell Anderson, director of the Dallas Museum of Art and former president of the Association of Art Museums Directors.
The Helly Nahmad Gallery would have a hard time getting a museum to lend it art as long as the investigation is ongoing, Anderson said.
“I can’t imagine a museum would be prepared to lend to a gallery that’s not in good standing, and the indictment of the owner would qualify as not being in good standing,” he said.
“To the extent that any museum director elects not to deal with (the) gallery at this time, that is certainly their right,” Brafman said. “We note however, that the gallery has never been charged with any criminal violation.”
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