Detroit – Sheryl Van Wert said she couldn’t understand how a $5 million Vincent van Gogh painting could have disappeared six years before it showed up at the Detroit Institute of Arts, but said she drove 100 miles on Sunday from Saginaw to the museum to see for herself the artwork. which is the subject of a federal lawsuit.
“I thought it was wonderful,” said van Wert of Vincent van Gogh’s painting, “Liseuse De Romans” — also known as “The Novelist Reader” or “The Reading Lady” — an 1888 oil painting by the Dutch Post-Impressionist master. “But how do you lose a painting like that? Someone stole it and it’s been disappearing all this time? Why did it all come out of the blue?”
On Sunday, Doha International Airport was packed with visitors to the Van Gogh exhibition. A line of hundreds of museum-goers showed up for the exhibition across several pavilions at Doha International Airport. At the end of the queue were sisters Kim and Kristen Adams from Dearborn.
“I hadn’t even heard of (the controversy) – we’re both just huge Van Gogh fans,” said Kim Adams. “We came to[the immersive Van Gogh exhibition at the TCF Center]last year, and we were going to come here today anyway.”
“But it’s all about … the painting makes it more interesting to come down here,” added Christine Adams.
The controversy over the painting began with a lawsuit filed last week by a Brazilian art collector seeking to recover the rare Van Gogh work. Painting collector Gustavo Sutter claims the painting had disappeared for nearly six years before it was found hanging at the DIA as part of the museum’s exhibition “Van Gogh in America.”
Filed by art brokerage firm Soter, the suit, filed by art brokerage Brokerarte Capital Partners LLC, alleges that years ago there was an international search for the “Liseuse De Romans” painting before it was discovered at Doha International Airport. The suit also insists that it is necessary to return the painting to Sutter before the DIA’s Van Gogh exbibit closes on January 22.
“Immediate action is urgently needed,” Sutter’s attorney, Aaron Phelps, wrote in the lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. “If DIA transfers the painting or surrenders possession of it to a third party, the plaintiff will lose the opportunity to recover the painting he has been searching for for years.”
A picture of the panel from the DIA screen is attached to the suit. The sign on the artwork display does not mention the owner’s name, but instead says: “Private Collection, São Paulo.”
The DIA told The Detroit News in a written statement that the museum is looking into ownership of the artworks it displays through the Art Loss Register and the US Federal Register.
The statement said after the lawsuit was filed: “This evening, the CIA learned of a complaint that had been filed regarding artwork currently on loan to the Ministry of the Interior.” The CIA has not yet been informed of the complaint and cannot comment on the matter.”
The exhibition, which opens Oct. 2, features more than 70 works by the artist, whose paintings received lukewarm receptions in the United States until the Department of the Interior in January 1922 purchased Van Gogh’s 1887 self-portrait for $4,200, about $75,000 a day. Dollars at auction in New York. The purchase gave DIA the distinction of being the first civic museum in the country to own a Van Gogh work.
“We were pioneers in the purchase of Van Gogh’s work,” Salvador Salorte-Ponce, director of the DIA, told The News in September, days before the exhibition opened. “Detroit was a visionary.”
The exhibition “Van Gogh in America” commemorated the centenary of DIA’s purchase of the self-portrait.
Among the hundreds of visitors to DIA on Sunday were Brownstown’s Judy and Tom Hornby, who were told by a staff member as they entered the museum that tickets for the Van Gogh exhibition were sold out.
Tom Hornby said that when an employee directed the couple to an office where they could purchase tickets for the show for another day later in the week, they decided to buy the passes and head back to Doha International Airport, “but we got lucky”. “We were told there was a cancellation, so we were able to get in today.”
Judy Hornby said the controversy over the “Liseuse De Romans” painting did not attract them to the exhibition, “but the chance of never seeing it again (because of the ownership issue) makes me glad we came in today.”
Van Wert said she was “inspired” after being on the show.
“Knowing that Vincent van Gogh’s hand has actually touched these paintings is really something,” she said.