When 1%-ers die, their deaths take far longer than then the deaths of 99%-ers. If their memories don’t linger among their friends and family — or at least their family foundations — then at least their afterlives continue in the courts for years, if not longer. Consider it the contemporary version of the mummification process that Ancient Egyptian royalty experienced.
Case in point … New York socialite Brooke Astor died in 2007 but only this week has her $100 million estate been finalized and among the big beneficiaries is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is slated to receive $20 million. That eight-digit amount includes $3 million that was given to the museum “in recognition of the Museum’s claim for proceeds from the sale of a painting from Mrs. Astor’s personal collection — Childe Hassam’s ‘Flags, Fifth Avenue’ (also known as ‘Up the Avenue from 34th Street, May 1917),’” according to an official statement from the museum.
The Hassam painting, which was one of Astor’s most prized possessions and was prominently displayed in the library of her Park Avenue apartment, is also one of the most well-known American paintings from the early 20th C. The painting was sold in a private sale in 2002 for $10 million and Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, received a $2 million commission for the sale.
In 2009, Astor’s nephew, Lord William Astor explained his reaction at the painting’s disappearance from the walls of his aunt’s apartment:
“I walked in one day, and I mean, the first thing I saw on the library wall was a gap … I said, ‘Brooke, what on earth has happened to it.’ And she said, ‘Oh, Tony sold it for me. He said I needed the money.’ And I was kind of shocked.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art released a statement today about the Brooke Astor Estate settlement and it said the museum was “deeply gratified that the charitable intentions of the late Brooke Astor, our longtime and beloved Trustee and benefactor, have been honored in the settlement agreement reached today among the beneficiaries of her estate.”
Regarding the Hassam painting, they had this to say, “Although Mrs. Astor bequeathed this iconic work to the Metropolitan, it was wrongly sold in 2002. The painting’s current whereabouts are unknown. The Museum continues to regret that it will be unable to display the work for its public as Mrs. Astor so long hoped.”
The New York Times reports that $4 million worth of art will also be donated to various cultural institutions, including the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Metropolitan Museum.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
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