A federal judge has cleared the way for the public auction of a vast collection of fine art that once graced the walls of Bernard Madoff's now-defunct brokerage firm. The collection, which is valued at nearly $600,000 and includes pieces by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol (one piece is pictured right), was displayed at Madoff's main office in the famed Lipstick Building in Manhattan or his back-up office in Queens. Bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard, citing the annual costs of nearly $20,000 to insure and store the pieces, requested approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton R. Lifland to offer the artwork for auction during the upcoming fall sales in New York. Notable auction houses Sotheby's and Stair Galleries will oversee the sales.
After Madoff was arrested in December 2008, Picard secured insurance on the collection, and in June 2009 coordinated the transfer of the artwork to climate-controlled storage. Picard hired Helen D. Lally, of Helen D. Lally Fine Arts, Ltd., as an art consultant to monitor the fine art market and determine an appropriate time and method for liquidation fo the artwork. As the general economy has improved since Madoff's arrest, the art market has followed in tandem, and Picard informed the Court that 2013 spring sales for artwork were 'quite strong'. As such, Picard requested authority to offer the artwork for sale at the upcoming fall auctions, which occur in October and November.
The artwork features over sixty pieces, including single works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein and Henri Matisse, as well as multiple pieces by Andy Warhol.
Madoff's victims holding approved claims have received more than $5 billion from Picard in several distributions, with the most recent distribution coming back in February. This amount represents nearly half of the approximately $11 billion in claims approved thus far by Picard.
A copy of the Motion for Authority for Sale is here.
A copy of the Order Approving Sale is here.