Scandal-plagued A-list art dealer Guy Wildenstein, 65, is heading to Paris from New York this week to face French anti-fraud investigators, according to a report by Carol Vogel and Doreen Carvajal in today’s New York Times. The trouble began for the president of the venerable Wildenstein & Company when a January raid on Paris’s Wildenstein Institute by French police -- who were already investigating the firm for allegations of money-laundering and tax evasion -- unearthed 30 artworks that had been reported missing or stolen by Jewish families, including a number of Edgar Degas drawings and an Impressionist painting by Berthe Morisot.
The head of a prestigious empire known for its Old Masters, Wildenstein has remained mum throughout the debacle, despite being currently enmeshed in around a half-dozen lawsuits, some resulting from the raid. Wildenstein Gallery opened in Paris in 1875, later expanding to New York, London and Buenos Aires, and has often faced controversy over its business practices during its long history, according to NY Times.
In The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World’s Greatest Works of Art, writer Hector Feliciano claimed that Georges Wildenstein collaborated with Nazi art dealer Karl Haberstock, who bought and sold art stolen from Jews, during WWII. The family pressed an unsuccessful defamation case to France’s highest court after two lower courts ruled that Feliciano “had not acted irresponsibly or negligently by drawing that conclusion from records.” Among motions against the Wildenstein clan have been few made by family and extended family members, including a lawsuit filed by a Wildenstein widow in February for breach of trust.