After a 16 month legal battle, a case between Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi and auction house Sotheby's that honed in on one artwork has been resolved.
The case focused on the date in which the bronze Egyptian sculpture Au Bord du Nil (On the Banks of the Nile) was cast. The work is by Mahmoud Mokhtar, and the question was whether the sculpture was made while the artist was still living or after his death — a distinction with financial implications.
Lawyers for Mr Al Qassemi, of Sharjah, and Charles Pocock of Meem Gallery, a dealer in Dubai who acquired the work for Mr Al Qassemi, told The National that the "claim has now been amicably settled between the parties on confidential terms and without any admission of liability or wrongdoing on either side".
The bronze statue by renowned Egyptian modernist Mokhtar was bought by Mr Al Qassemi at auction at Sotheby’s London in April 2016 for £725,000 (Dh3.6 million). Bidding rose to nearly 10 times the estimate.
Afterwards, Mr Al Qassemi and Mr Pocock said they were given a foundry report from the auction house that contradicted the information set out in the auction catalogue.
The report, from the Susse Foundry in France, suggested that the cast was made after 1935. Mokhtar died in 1934. A posthumous cast is worth much less.
Sotheby’s held that the date given by the catalogue of “circa 1920s” was sufficiently vague to allow for a later date, and that the foundry report was later revised.
Another complication emerged over a potential conflict of interest. The consignor of the cast, New York art dealer Nesreen Farag, was revealed to be the mother of the Sotheby’s specialist who brokered the sale, Mai Eldib. Ms Farag was added in April of this year as a defendant in the case.
Mr Al Qassemi and Mr Pocock requested a full refund for the work, based on the assertion that Sotheby’s had breached its own code of conduct, under which terms the buyer would be entitled to an annulment of the sale.