Home Magazine The infinite case of Mr Dmitry Rybolovlev

In addition to the auction houses and gallery system, there's still an ancient network of sales and agreements between highly specialized art dealers and very passionate collectors. Better known as art advisors/art dealers, the merchants are freelance figures who have always devoted their life to numerous trips in order to find forgotten treasures, unknown masterpieces, but mostly, incredible business for a restricted circle of rich people.

Related articles: Christie's Classic Week: 15 auctions in 10 days-Hidden treasures for the next Bonhams Old Master Paintings Sale-The mysterious story of the stolen Banksy "The drinker"

Therefore, this kind of purchases is rarely the case for public concern, but for sure Russian billionaire and collector Dmitry Rybolovlev's case with the Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier is the typical exception to the rule. On 2 October, Rybolovlev opened a $ 380 million lawsuit against Sotheby's in a Manhattan court. For the Russian collector, the auction house had materially fueled what the collector calls "the greatest artistic fraud in history", as Bloomberg first reported.


Leonardo Da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, 1490–1500. 


So, this is the last attempt by the Russian oligarch to recover a billion dollars from Bouvier after he claimed in 2015 that the merchant overestimated 38 works he purchased over the course of a decade for a total of 2 billion dollars, including the "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo. Sotheby’s was involved in the sale of 14 of the works in question. In the current case, Rybolovlev accuses the company of "intentional, arbitrary, reckless and conscious behaviour" and of having helped and supported Bouvier, who is identified in the trial documents as a "relevant actor in the art world" and "valuable » for the auction house, to improve its results.

Among the works in question are "Wasserschlangen II" (1904) by Klimt, which Bouvier have bought $ 112 million in 2012 before reselling it to Rybolovlev for 183.8 million (in addition to 3.6 million commissions), so as "Nu couché au coussin bleu" (1917) by Modigliani, for which, again in 2012, the collector paid 120 million dollars, although Bouvier had bought it for only 95. The perhaps most significant example of the supposed fraud is represented by the sale to Rybolovlev, in 2013, of the "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo for a total of 128.7 million dollars, which involved a profit margin of 45 million compared to what Bouvier had paid him in a private sale mediated by Sotheby's. 

And what was not very helpful to billionaire's position was certainly the accusation of corruption by the Munich police, who after several investigations found that in 2017 Rybolovlev representatives had bribed former justice minister Philippe Narmino with trips, tours private helicopters and other gifts to influence court rulings in billionaire favour. The corruption scandal also suggested Rybolovlev's close ties with high-ranking members of the Munich police and judiciary system.

This case has involved courts in Monaco, Paris, New York, London, Geneva and Singapore.

Cover image: Dmitri Rybolovlev. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK.


Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

Kooness Recommends