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Pat Steir works at Cook Fine Art in 2005
Pat Steir works at Cook Fine Art in 2005


Aug. 26, 2011

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Collector George Ball is suing the owners of Cook Fine Art gallery on Madison Avenue for allegedly selling $5.3 million worth of his art without turning over the money. According to Courthouse News, gallery owner R. Scott Cook told Ball that he had consigned two works by Pablo Picasso, three by Henri Matisse, a Paul Klee, a Wassily Kandinsky, an Egon Schiele and a Paul Delvauxfor sale at Christie’s auction house in June 2011. But, according to Ball, Cook’s lawyer contacted the collector in mid-August alerting him that Cook and his wife, Soussan, were in France and the $5.3 million from the sale “would not be forthcoming because ‘it has been spent,’” adding that “Cook might be able to raise $1 million if he could sell some artwork, and that Cook hoped to avoid being prosecuted.”

Ball said he looked at Christie’s catalogue online and couldn’t find listings for any of his property, leading him to believe that the Cooks are still in possession of the art -- and that they intend to steal it. He claims he has purchased more than $10 million in 19th- and 20th-century art from the Cooks over the years and, because it wouldn’t all fit in his home, left much of it in storage with the gallery (he is also suing the New Yorker Storage Co.). After the phone call with Cook’s attorney, Ball demanded the return of all his artworks, but says there has been no reply. Ball believes the gallery has been nonoperational for several years, since the Cooks moved to Florida.

Scott and Soussan Cook are familiar figures in the New York art world, arranging sophisticated, semi-public exhibitions at their elegant second-floor space at 1063 Madison Avenue above East 86th Street. Cook got his start in the early 1980s at Grace Borgenicht Gallery, and worked for Barry Friedman for several years before going out on his own (he even wrote, in the distant past, for this magazine). Exhibitions listed on his Artnet website include "Newton / Mapplethorpe" (2004), "Bettina Rheims: Twenty-Five Years" (2006) and The Landscape of Exploration: XIXth Century Photography in Latin America" (2008).  

The Cooks’ attorney, James Eisenhower, did not respond to requests for comment.

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