- Collection ID:
The collection is in English.
- Physical Description:
The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko measure 34.6 linear feet and date from 1957-1986. The records document the case brought by the New York State Attorney General's Office as cross-petitioner to the case brought by Rothko's daughter Kate, against the executors of Rothko's estate, Frank Lloyd and the Marlborough Gallery, for mismanagement and self-dealing. There are also records related to Harrow's writings about the case. Lastly, included in the collection are materials relating to art law issues in connection with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
New York State Attorney General Gustave Harrow's records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko consist of legal and other documentation of the state's case in connection with the Mark Rothko Estate and Foundation, from Surrogate Court through appeals, as well as from Harrow's writings about the case, both during and after the trial. Various trial documents include affidavits, briefs, EBTs (examination before trial) trial transcripts, motions, depositions, notes and clippings, and miscellaneous records related to the case and post-trial activities. Also found are reference materials, Harrow's writings in connection with the case.
Unrelated to the Rothko case are Harrow's research materials for possible legal actions by the state in connection with Walter Annenberg's proposed donation of a Communication Center to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and with other issues including donations, object authenticity and the Packard Collection.
The collection is arranged in 7 series.
- Series 1: General Files, 1957-1981, undated
- Series 2: Motions, 1971-1979, undated
- Series 3: Decisions, 1970-1979, undated
- Series 4: Appeals Documents, 1972-1979, undated
- Series 5: Miscellaneous Case and Post-Trial files, 1972-1984, undated
- Series 6: Reference Materials, Notes and Writings, 1970-1986
- Series 7: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Walter Annenberg Etc., 1971-1981, undated
Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Gustave Harrow was a New York State Assistant Attorney General, and an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program in Arts Administration at NYU. Abstract Expressionist Artist Mark Rothko died on February 25, 1970 leaving the bulk of his estate, including 798 paintings (the greater part of his life's work) to the Mark Rothko Foundation which he had created shortly before his death. His daughter Kate [Rothko Prizel] brought suit against the estate executors and Marlborough Gallery for self-dealing, fraud, and conspiring with Marlborough owner, Frank Lloyd to waste the assets of the estate. The state of New York Attorney General's Office, represented by Harrow, joined the case as a cross-petitioner on behalf of the people of New York's interest as beneficiaries of the charitable Foundation. The case resulted in the return of most of the paintings, the removal of the executors (accountant Bernard Reis, artist Theodoros Stamos, and anthropology professor Morton Levine), and a $9.2 million judgment against them and Frank Lloyd. The case had a lasting effect on laws dealing with artists' estates, and Harrow was instrumental in framing a bill that aimed at reducing fraud in the fine arts market. Harrow wrote about the Rothko Estate case in several articles and in the 1979 book Art, the Artist, and the Consequences of Rothko: Lasting Legal Impressions from the Estate of Great Artist.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko were donated to the Archives of American Art by Marilynn Karp March 23, 1996. Mr. Harrow had deposited the papers with Ms. Karp, a colleague of Harrow's at New York University where he was an adjunct professor.
Another small collection (11 items) of Mark Rothko papers were loaned to the Archives for microfilming on reel 3135. The papers were in the possession of George Carson, husband of Rothko's ex-wife Edith Carson. Carson gave the papers to the Mark Rothko Foundation and gave the Archives of American Art permission to microfilm them. The microfilm is available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan but are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
The collection was re-boxed by C. Spaeth in 1996. The collection was minimally processed and a finding aid created by Valerie Vanden Bossche in 2013 with funding provided by the Collections Care Pool Fund. Note that many of the original folders had unidentified numbers in addition to the master numbering system, these were transcribed exactly from the original folders.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Contact Reference services for more information.
for additional information.
Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko, 1957-1986, undated. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are the Mark Rothko Foundation records, 1976-1987; Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987.
The Archives of American Art interviewed multiple artists as part of the Mark Rothko and His Times Oral History Project. Many of the interviews reference Rothko and his work, and relationships with the artist.
The Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987 contains documentation of another lawsuit handled by Gustave Harrow.
Archives of American Art
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