Settlement in Beaverbrook Art Dispute

Posted on: April 14, 2014 by

It was recently revealed that a final settlement had been reached in the decade-long Beaverbrook art saga.

The dispute involved over 200 works that had once belonged to Max Aitken, aka Lord Beaverbrook, the Canadian-born London-based newspaper magnate. Before he died in 1964, Beaverbrook had founded an art gallery in his home province of New Brunswick to which he had transferred, through the vehicle of a Foundation established in the UK, his collection of primarily British paintings, including noted works by JMW Turner (The Fountain of Indolence) and Lucian Freud (Hotel Bedroom).

The dispute pitted the Beaverbrook Foundation, controlled by Beaverbrook’s heirs, against the Beaverbrook Art Gallery of Fredericton, New Brunswick and led to a lengthy arbitration process between 2003 and 2009, at the end of which the Gallery came out on top, obtaining clear title to 88 of the works in the collection, including the Turner and the Freud. For analysis of the original arbitration award, see the case note in Art Antiquity and Law. For analysis of the appellate award, see the subsequent case note also in Art Antiquity and Law. (These case notes are not freely available.)

After several years, there remained 78 works of disputed ownership, and these formed the subject matter of the settlement recently reached between the parties. By accounts in the media, the settlement was amicable and led to a divvying up of the collection, with 43 works going to the Foundation and 35 to the Gallery.

If only such a happy outcome had been possible prior to the arbitration…