Major Warhol Collector Says Art Stash Being ‘Held Hostage’

Updated on
  • Mugrabi family says dispute bringing business to ‘standstill’
  • Mana Contemporary refusing to release works, complaint says

The family that owns the largest private cache of Andy Warhol pieces says its business has been brought to a standstill by a company that’s holding more than 1,300 works in its art collection “hostage" at a New Jersey storage facility.

David Mugrabi, the son of New York dealer Jose Mugrabi, accused Mana Contemporary of preventing the family from removing any art from the storage facility in Jersey City since last month. Mana agreed in 2014 to store the collection in exchange for the Mugrabis’ recommendations of Mana’s services to their clients, according to a complaint filed Monday in New York state court. Mana wants more than $500,000 for storage fees, according to the complaint.

Three of the works at the facility have been sold and two are set to be shown at “prestigious museums,” including one that must be delivered by Oct. 27, according to the lawsuit. One gallery has already canceled the consignment of a sculpture held in the collection because Mana refused to release it, and the company has also damaged 11 works of art in its custody -- including pieces by Frank Gehry, Richard Prince and Jenny Saville, according to the suit.

Mana’s “reprehensible and intentional misconduct” has brought the family’s art business to a standstill, Mugrabi said in the lawsuit. It’s “destroying the business” and preventing the sale to potential clients of millions of dollars worth of art, he said.

Fran Mulnick Parker, a lawyer representing Mana Contemporary, said the firm has "no choice" but to enforce its lien against the artwork as the Mugrabi family’s company, Fashion Concepts Inc., has defaulted on payment "for an extended period of time" and owes more than $500,000, "despite several attempts to recover same," Parker said in the statement.

The Mugrabi family is known as market movers, taking major positions on artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Damien Hirst. The family collection’s value was estimated at more than $100 million, according to the lawsuit. 

Mana is an urban arts organization founded by Israeli billionaire Moishe Mana. Its Mana Fine Arts division in Jersey City provides services to the art-collection industry, including storage, shipping and restoration.

The case is Mugrabi v. Mana Contemporary, 159407/2017, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.)

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