Klaus Perls

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Klaus Gunther Perls (1912–2008) was born in Berlin, Germany, where his parents were art dealers. He studied art history in Munich, but after the Nazis stopped granting degrees to Jews he moved to Basel, Switzerland and completed his studies. Here, he wrote a dissertation on the 15th-century French painter Jean Fouquet.[1]

Early career[edit]

His father Hugo Perls had fled Germany and separated from his mother who set up as an art dealer in Paris.[2]

In 1935, after two years in Paris, Klaus moved to New York and opened the Perls Galleries on East 58th Street near Madison Avenue. Initially, he dealt in works by Maurice Utrillo, Maurice de Vlaminck and Raoul Dufy; artists that his mother recommended to him from Paris. When she was forced to flee France, he began dealing in contemporary American artists, including Darrel Austin, and in Mexican and South American art.

Middle years[edit]

In 1940, Klaus married Amelia Blumenthal from Philadelphia, and she became a partner in the gallery. After the war, the Perlses focused on French art from the School of Paris. They moved their gallery to a town house at 1016 Madison Avenue, near 78th Street, where they lived on the upper floors in 1954.[2] They worked there until 1997. Perls was one of the founders, with Perls, of the Art Dealers Association of America.[3]

In addition to preparing monographs on Fouquet, Vlaminck and Rufino Tamayo, Mr Perls wrote catalogues raisonnés for the artists Chaim Soutine and Jules Pascin. He also wrote an impassioned letter to The New York Times in 1939, defending the representational work by Picasso that was, at the time, being savaged by critics of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. In the letter he wrote: "If the public would take the trouble to spend as much time in the presence of Picasso’s art as they spend in the presence of good music, they would come to like it just as much,". The couple dealt primarily in modern works from the School of Paris, but also represented Alexander Calder beginning in 1954.

Later life[edit]

In the 1970s, Mr Perls developed an interest in art from the Benin Empire and built an important collection. He donated 153 pieces of African royal art from Benin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which are in the Michael Rockefeller Wing, in 1991. The donated collection comprised bronze figures, elephant tusks carved with royal figures, musical instruments, decorative masks and jewelry.[4]

In 1996, the Perls further donated 13 works by Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Soutine and Pascin to the Metropolitan. That gift was one of the largest ever received by the Metropolitan’s department of 20th-century art and greatly helped round out the museum’s collection. Two were from 1910, Picasso’s Nude in an Armchair and Braque’s oval Candlestick and Playing Cards on a Table, and the third was Picasso’s Still Life With Pipes from 1912. The gift also included several Picassos from the 1930s, notably Sleeping Nude With Flowers and Girl Asleep at a Table. Klaus Perls was subsequently named honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum. The Perls Foundation was set up after the Perls Gallery closed in 1997.[5]

In 1990, art thieves removed a glass dome from atop the Perls Gallery and stole a 1962 mobile designed by Alexander Calder valued at $1.4 million.[6]

His wife Amelia, better known as Dolly died in 2002. She was also a Trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dismissed posthumous legal challenge[edit]

In 2010 lawsuit[7] filed by Calder's heirs (including Alexander "Sandy" Rower, Director of the Calder Foundation[8][9]), dismissed with prejudice by the New York Supreme Court in 2013,[10] Klaus Perls was accused of fraud. In a revised 2013 complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court, the Calder estate argued the Perlses surreptitiously held on to hundreds of Calder’s works and swindled the artist’s estate out of tens of millions of dollars. In response, the Perls family asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the charges were completely false,[11] and misrepresented the fact that Perls and Calder were close friends for decades.[12] In a court order dated December 23, 2013, the lawsuit was completely dismissed with prejudice.[13][14] In her opinion, Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich called the Calder Estate's fraud allegations ".... an incoherent stew of irrelevance and innuendo....so patently inadequate that the court can only conclude that they were brought solely for the purposes of harassment or embarrassment, without any consideration of their legal sufficiency," and wrote "Rarely has the court encountered a better justification for the statute of limitations" (p. 16-17).[15] Sandy Rower, President of the Calder Foundation, was very active in the lawsuit,[16] but it is unclear what role the Calder Foundation itself played in the lawsuit (calls to the Calder Foundation by reporters from Bloomberg News and the New York Times were not returned).[17][18] <See New York State Supreme Court, New York County, case filed under Index No. 651760/2010.>

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ William Grimes (June 5, 2008), Klaus Perls, Art Dealer Who Gave Picassos to the Met, Dies at 96 New York Times.
  2. ^ a b Hugo fled Germany and Perls Gallery in New York.
  3. ^ Patricia Cohen (October 29, 2013), Calder’s Heirs Accuse Trusted Dealer of Fraud New York Times.
  4. ^ Collection donated to Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  5. ^ Patricia Cohen (October 29, 2013), Calder’s Heirs Accuse Trusted Dealer of Fraud New York Times.
  6. ^ Thieves Hoist Mobile by Calder New York Times, January 23, 1990.
  7. ^ Bloomberg, News. "Calder Suit Dismissed". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Patricia Cohen (October 29, 2013), Calder’s Heirs Accuse Trusted Dealer of FraudNew York Times.
  9. ^ New York, Supreme Court. "Calder Estate Decision". Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  10. ^ Kepler, Adam. "Calder Suit Dismissed". New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Patricia Cohen (October 29, 2013), Calder’s Heirs Accuse Trusted Dealer of Fraud New York Times
  12. ^ Kepler, Adam. "Calder Lawsuit Dismissed". New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Bloomberg, News. "Calder Suit Dismissed". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Kepler, Adam. "Calder Suit Dismissed". New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  15. ^ NY Supreme, Court. "Calder Estate Decision". Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  16. ^ New York, Supreme Court. "Calder Estate Decision". Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Bloomberg, News. "Calder Suit Dismissed". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  18. ^ Kepler, Adam. "Calder Suit Dismissed". New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 

References[edit]

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