NY AG James asked to intervene in family feud over ‘grabstract expressionism’

A former federal prosecutor is urging New York Attorney General Letitia James to examine a basis arrange to shield the legacy of artist Helen Frankenthaler — however which is as an alternative, allegedly, selling the pursuits of its administrators, The Post has discovered.

Among the allegations is that board member Clifford Ross, who’s a nephew of the late painter, persuaded the board to shell out lots of of 1000’s in grants to the Asia Society and Museum, which is internet hosting a present of Ross’s personal photographs. An enormous poster that includes Ross’s photographs and his title is wrapped across the entrance of the Manhattan museum’s Park Avenue facade.

In a June 5 letter despatched to James and James Sheehan, chief of the state’s Charities Bureau, legal professional Andrew Weissman says he’s writing to “bring your attention to serious allegations of systematic abuse and conflicts of interest” in the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

The group was arrange in 1984 to shield and promote the legacy of the summary artist, who died in 2011.

Photographer Clifford Ross.
Photographer Clifford Ross, a nephew of the late artist Helen Frankenthaler, is accused of persuading the board of her basis to give $250,000 in grants to the Asia Society and Museum — which is now internet hosting a present that features Ross’s personal photographs. Getty Images
Painter Helen Frankenthaler in her studio.
Abstract painter Helen Frankenthaler arrange a basis in 1984 in order to shield her work and legacy. She died in 2011. Getty Images

“I request that you independently investigate what appear on their face to be blatant and repeated acts of self-dealing and undisclosed conflicts of interest by members of the board of directors of the Frankenthaler Foundation,” Weissmann writes in the letter, as seen by The Post.

Between 2021 and 2022, the Foundation, which has property of greater than $500 million, doled out $250,000 in grants to the Asia Foundation and Museum, in accordance to IRS filings. Ross’s images of waves in Portugal, which now adorn the entrance of the museum, are a part of “Coal + Ice.” The “immersive photography and video exhibition” opened in February and closes Aug. 11.

George W. Bush and Helen Frankenthaler, with medal draped around her neck.
Painter Helen Frankenthaler poses with former President George W. Bush after profitable a distinction from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2002. AP

Last yr, Frederick Iseman, an ousted board member of the Frankenthaler Foundation and one other Frankenthaler nephew, sued the inspiration in New York State Supreme Court. Among the opposite board members are Lise Motherwell, the late painter’s stepdaughter.

That lawsuit, which is ongoing, accuses the defendants of “engaging in a kind of ‘grabstract expressionism’ that is effectively destroying Frankenthaler’s legacy.”

Weissmann — a former prosecutor in Robert S. Mueller’s Special Counsel Office probe of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election — writes that he contacted the AG on the behest of former longtime board member Iseman and his attorneys at Kaplan, Hecker and Fink LLP.

Front door of the Asia Society on Park Avenue.
The Frankenthaler Foundation gave $250,000 to the Asia Society and Museum — which now options two photographs by board member Clifford Ross, who’s a part of a gaggle present on the museum. Jonah Elkowitz for New York Post

“Mr. Iseman has made clear that he is taking these steps solely out of his interest in the legacy of his aunt and the proper and lawful functioning of the Frankenthaler Foundation,” the letter says.

“While it is impossible to comment with specificity on a letter that we have not seen, it appears clear that Mr. Iseman, this time via surrogates, continues to engage in scorched earth tactics designed to harm the reputation of the Foundation’s directors … We have already responded fully to these baseless allegations in court filings,” a consultant for the Frankenthaler Foundation stated in an announcement to The Post.

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