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Estranged wife of Dennis Hopper contests sale of certain art items

January 12, 2011 |  3:29 pm


An auction of art items from the collection of the late Dennis Hopper hit a legal bump this week after the actor's estranged wife filed papers in a Los Angeles court contesting the sale of certain pieces, among them works by Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston and Manuel Ocampo.

Victoria Duffy, who was estranged from the actor at the time of his death in 2010, has filed a title claim in Los Angeles Superior Court against the Dennis Hopper Trust, resulting in the withdrawal of 32 items from the auction at Christie's in New York.

Christie's said in a statement Wednesday that it has had to withdraw the 32 items from the sale "until such time as the title claim is resolved." The auction house said that the Hopper sale includes more than 300 works, "so this is a minimal number."

A hearing date has been set for Jan. 27 at L.A. Superior Court to consider the disputed art works.

In the court papers, which are dated Jan. 6, Duffy maintains that she has "irrefutable" evidence, including receipts, that shows that the items belong to her and her daughter with Hopper, Galen, who is 7. "Depite such evidence, the co-trustees have wrongly refused to return the property to me and have instead proceeded with the sale of the property which does not belong to the trust," said Duffy in the filing.

Hopper filed for divorce from his fifth wife in January 2010, and their messy relationship has played out in the tabloids, with the actor reportedly accusing his wife of outrageous and inhuman conduct. At one point, he claimed that his wife wrongly removed artwork from their Venice property. Hopper died in May following a fight with cancer.

Among the withdrawn art items are a collage by Manuel Ocampo, which Duffy maintains was a gift from a gallerist and the artist, "who was an old boyfriend"; an Ed Ruscha work, titled "Holy Bible," that she claims she purchased herself; and a work by Hans Gustav Burkhardt that she said was a wedding gift from singer Dwight Yoakam.

The disputed artworks also include a piece from Billy Al Bengston that depicts a yellow sky and blue sea that Duffy said was a gift from the artist; a piece by Sam Francis that is an ink work on paper; a portrait of the late actor by artist Jonathan Yeo; and various works by George Herms and and Pixie Guerin.

In her filing, Duffy maintains that the co-trustees suggested that she travel to New York and bid on the individual items if she wanted them back.


Art review: 'Dennis Hopper Double Standard' @ MOCA's Geffen Contemporary

How is Jeffrey Deitch bringing 'Dennis Hopper Double Standard' to a museum near you so quickly?

Jeffrey Deitch's first show at MOCA: Dennis Hopper, curated by Julian Schnabel

-- David Ng

Photo: Dennis Hopper, at a Paris retrospective of his work in 2008. Credit: Bertrand Guay / AFP/Getty Images