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ESMERIAN BANKRUPTCY TRUSTEE FILES MOTION TO APPROVE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT Agreement Would Give American Folk Art Museum 53 Works of Art Considered Important to Museum’s Mission
The trustee in the bankruptcy cases of Ralph Esmerian and R. Esmerian Inc. today filed a motion asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to approve a settlement agreement between the Esmerian bankruptcy estates and the American Folk Art Museum to resolve the matter of some 263 works of art previously promised to the Museum by Mr. Esmerian. The agreement, which is subject to court approval, provides that the Museum will have free and clear title to 53 outstanding works of art which will enhance its collection and support its educational mission. The works to be retained have been specifically identified by the Museum for their distinctive contribution to its collection and include superb examples of traditional folk art in such media as portraits, needleworks, fraktur, sculpture, pottery, and scrimshaw, among other forms. Esmerian’s collection was widely considered one of the finest in the field.
Commented Laura Parsons, Chairman of the Board of the Museum: “This is a happy and sad day for the American Folk Art Museum. If the Court approves the agreement, the Museum will have acquired 53 folk art masterpieces, on top of a large number of artworks already gifted. We know, however, that we are going to lose works of art we cherish, and that is a loss for the Museum and the public as well. We have concluded that this resolution is essential to put the uncertainty of the Esmerian bankruptcy process behind us. We are committed to continue our success and progress in renewing, rebuilding, and re-energizing the Museum, focusing on the important role we play.”
The Museum is the only not-for-profit, educational institution named in the court agreement filed today. The remainder of the promised gift to the Museum— approximately 210 works of art—will most likely be sold at auction to settle other bankruptcy estate claims.
Despite the challenges the Museum faced in 2011, it has preserved its collection intact and undertaken a dynamic exhibition schedule; it has expanded its Board of Trustees and hired Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice as its new Executive Director. The Museum is operating with a balanced budget, primarily due to the largesse of one of its most loyal and dedicated trustees, Joyce Cowin, and other trustees and friends who made pledges to help ensure the Museum’s future. The Museum’s coffers were further bolstered by a generous bequest to support its exhibitions from the late David Davies, a trustee of the Museum, and a gift from his partner Jack Weeden.
Ms. Parsons continued: “I am especially grateful for Monty Blanchard’s energetic work to move the Museum closer to resolution of the Esmerian matter. I am also grateful to Anne Radice for joining the Museum at this critical moment in our history, and for her leadership, dynamism, and expertise in corporate governance.”
The works were promised by Mr. Esmerian, a chairman of the Museum’s Board, who filed for bankruptcy in 2010 before the promised gifts were available for accession. During the course of Mr. Esmerian’s association with the Museum, he had previously donated 65 works and provided significant financial support including over $1.9 million to its building campaign. As part of the settlement, the trustee is releasing any claim that the bankruptcy estates may have had to recover any of the 65 works or the funds previously donated by Mr. Esmerian.
The Museum has continued to make many of the promised works of art available to the public through recent exhibitions including Jubilation/Rumination:
Life Real and Imagined and Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions, which is currently on view at the South Street Seaport Museum. The Museum’s website, www.folkartmuseum.org also features much of this art.
The American Folk Art Museum, since its inception, has been the premier institution devoted to the aesthetic appreciation of traditional folk art and creative expressions of contemporary self-taught artists from the United States and abroad. The Museum has played a leadership role in the preservation, conservation, and interpretation of American folk and visionary art from around the world, inspiring other museums to pursue this area of visual art. The Museum maintains a comprehensive collection of the highest quality, with objects dating from the 18th century to the present. ###