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Gelman Collection Disputed

According to an article by Elisabeth Malkin (An ownership battle for a cache of Mexican art, December 1) in the International Herald Tribune, a major collection of Mexican art may not belong to a small museum south of Mexico City after all.

The paintings belonged to Jacques Gelman, a Russian-born producer of Mexican films who died in 1986, and his wife, Natasha, who jointly began amassing art after they were married in 1941. The couple were best known for creating a sweeping collection of 20th-century European art that Natasha Gelman left to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York upon her death in 1998. They purchased the Mexican art mostly from friends as they took part in the vibrant art scene of midcentury Mexico City. Jacques Gelman, who became rich producing the films of the Mexican comedian Cantinflas, moved in glittering spheres in Mexico City and New York, socializing with artists, actors and art curators. As patrons in Mexico, the Gelmans commissioned many portraits: Rivera, Kahlo, Rufino Tamayo and David Alfaro Siqueiros all painted Natasha Gelman.

At the time of her death the collection consisted of 95 pieces, including two well-known 1943 works by Kahlo, "Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)" and "Self-Portrait With Monkeys," and Rivera's 1941 "Calla Lily Vendor." The largest number of works are by the couple's close friend Gunther Gerzso, an abstract painter whose reputation has grown over the last decade.
Last week the story was reported by Joëlle Stolz (La collection Gelman sous clé à Mexico, November 27) for Le Monde. According to her, Frida Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Monkeys is among the paintings in the legal dispute.

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