The insurance company Lloyd’s has claimed in court that it won’t pay for an insured Edgar Degas sculpture, purported to be worth $3 million, which disappeared in shady circumstances.
“The claim of the loss of Degas bronze results from theft or dishonesty by a person to whom the insured property was entrusted,” the insurance giant said in a Manhattan Supreme Court complaint. “Accordingly, the [Degas bronze] claim falls within exclusion of the policy.”
Although the insurance policy covered losses until August 2014, exclusions applied in cases of “mysterious disappearance or unexplained loss,” which seem to fit the description of the circumstances in which Degas’ La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans vanished.
Lloyd’s says it received a claim notice for the loss of the Degas bronze from its assured, Walter Maibaum, from the Degas Sculpture Project.
The piece, a 39-inch-tall artwork insured for $2 million, disappeared in spring 2014, after it was delivered to California real estate investor Luke Brugnara.
The piece was in one of five boxes containing costly artworks, including paintings by Willem de Kooning and etchings by Pablo Picasso, which the art dealer Rose Ramey Long had agreed to sell to Brugnara—to whom she had also sold a $500,000 Renoir painting a decade earlier without incident— on behalf of Manhattan-based dealers Degas Sculpture Project and Modernism Fine Arts.
The whole package was valued at $11 million, with the artworks supposedly set to be displayed in a museum that Brugnara, according to Long, said he was planning to open in San Francisco. But when Long herself arrived to the agreed address to deliver the goods and discovered an empty house, she sensed something was wrong. Brugnara told Long to leave the crates in the garage and disregarded her requests for payment. When Long returned to the house two days later, the crates were gone.
The 51-year-old Brugnara was arrested in May. Authorities recovered four of the five crates containing the artworks, but the fifth, which contained the Degas, remains missing. Brugnara’s claims Long gave him the artworks as a “gift,” and that they are worth much less than what she claims. Brugnara’s court papers state that the missing bronze was made only 20 years ago from a 1903 Degas plaster cast, and that up to 46 sculptures were made with it.
Brugnara was convicted in 2010 of failing to file tax returns on the sale of several properties, and has served concurrent sentences for tax evasion and for poaching trout from a private dam in Gilroy.
The Degas Sculpture Project and Modernism Fine Arts filed a lawsuit against Long, claiming she is responsible for the missing Degas Because of Lloyd’s refusal to pay the $2 million insurance payout pertaining to the missing sculpture, the lawsuit also seeks to force Long to give that money to the Degas Sculpture Project and Modernism Fine Art.
Long has also been charged with breach of contract and negligence for having done “absolutely no due diligence” as regards to ensuring Brugnara’s reliability and financial situation, according to Daily News.