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“Staggering” art collection looms large in divorce asset division

We suspect at the Somerville Law Office of Rajeh A. Saadeh that many readers of our family law blogs like art. Many of them likely collect various types of art that speak to them in meaningful ways, like sculptures, carvings, photographs and paintings.

Harry Macklowe and his estranged wife Linda can readily identify with anyone’s art fixation, especially where paintings are concerned. Though divorced, the once-married couple still collectively owns a reported 150-plus paintings collected over decades of marriage.

That art trove is singular in several respects. For starters, notes a recent media report on the collection, it comprises works by “legendary” artists. And (insert drum roll here) it has a potential monetary value of $1 billion.

Perhaps more. That ballpark figure was supplied by a major art house a handful of years ago. Given iconic paintings’ historically heady value that generally spikes over time, well . …

Unsurprisingly, the paintings are of elevated concern in the couple’s divorce settlement. Although the Macklowes formally split last year, they continue to spar over the vast collection. Harry reportedly wants to sell it off completely, while Linda prefers to part with it only gradually, a piece at a time. A court ruling does stipulate that the bulk of the collection will be sold at auction, but material details concerning the specifics continue to be in flux.

The matter is obviously a bit unusual (one Andy Warhol painting alone is worth an estimated $50 million), but perhaps only in terms of its degree. At its core, the painting spat is simply a contest concerning the equitable division of marital assets in a divorce, which is a matter that centrally concerns legions of divorcing spouses.

It’s unquestionably big though.

“The art world will be fighting over it,” says one industry expert.

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