De Niro raging mad over art ‘theft’

LAST UPDATED AT 00:00 ON Tue 20 Nov 2007

Robert de Niro is looking to settle a score after a bankrupt New York gallery owner allegedly stole 12 of his late father's paintings. Lawyers for the actor claim the paintings are among 50 works of art that Lawrence Salander delivered to an Italian gallery in June in an effort to settle a $5m debt. A statement from the plush Manhattan-based law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher said the actor had entrusted the paintings to Salander-O'Reilly Galleries on consignment.

"That gallery," said WFG, "instead of selling the paintings on behalf of De Niro, used the paintings to settle the gallery's debts with Benucci SRL, which operates galleries in Rome." But the actor (photographed here in front of a poster for his father's posthumous show) was never informed of the deal, the statement added.
 
Robert De Niro Sr, who died in 1993, was a serious artist who was exhibited alongside contemporaries such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. He was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowhip in 1968.  The missing paintings include several colourful abstract works, figure paintings and landscapes.
 
De Niro is just one of dozens of well-heeled collectors, including tennis star John McEnroe, who claim the Upper Eastside gallery "misappropriated" works of art that they had entrusted to his gallery on consignment. In a recent bankruptcy filing, Salander estimated his debts at between $50m and $100m. · 

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