Two brothers are hoping to recover the masterpieces that used to belong to their father’s collection. Marc and Andre Salz allege that their stepmother, Janet Traeger-Salz, sold off many great works of art, worth tens of millions of dollars, after the death of Sam Salz. The brothers believe she pocketed the cash before she died last year at 99 years old.
The story sounds like the stuff of Disney villainy. Salz, a notable and successful art dealer and collector, left most of his impressive art collection to his two sons. His collection includes Monet’s “La Seine a Argenteuil” and Edgar Degas’ “Horses in a Meadow,” but it seems that these pieces, and many of his others, were sold off in secret.
The brothers’ suit claims that Traeger-Salz sold the Monet piece in 1988 and shortly after, a painting of the same name garnered $14.5 million at a Christie’s auction. The Degas piece was sold by the National Gallery of Art in 1995, and Renoir’s “Still Life with Figs” was sold in 2009.
The prosecuting attorney in the case, Irini Tarsis, noted that Marc was able to track down the sold pieces via new technology. “Art law is a field that has been growing and there’s more information that may be gleaned through robust provenance research,” Tarsis said.
Marc has requested that a judge appoint him as the administrator of his father’s estate so that he may sue his stepmother’s descendants. Currently, the account is managed by an attorney who lives in the Caribbean.
For his part, Sam Salz spent a lifetime building his collection and his career. A self-admitted poor painter, Salz only bought pieces he personally liked. “I believe in paintings like I believe in God,” he told the New York Times in 1964.
Born near Vienna in 1894, Salz entered the Fine Arts Academy there at 17 and then spent several years in service with the Austrian Army. He opened a gallery in Cologne in 1923 to exhibit Chagall’s work and would go on to open and exhibit many other galleries, pieces, and artists.