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Ask Anyone

pickers at an exhibition

A friend of mine opened a little shop a few years ago. She really enjoyed being an independent businesswoman, but she wasn’t very good at it, and the shop just closed. My problem is that when she opened the store, I let her borrow some framed artwork to hang on the walls. I’m not a wealthy art collector, but my aunt was. They were paintings she had collected and left to me in her will because we were very close. Well, I asked about getting them back, and my friend turned white and said she thought I’d given them to her outright. She went on to tell me that she sold them to an antiques dealer to pay off some accumulated bills at the end.

I know, it was my fault lending expensive art without some kind of written agreement, but this was for a friend. We argued. I contacted the antique dealer and explained the situation. He empathized, and told me he could sell them back to me for $2,500—which is less than he was planning to sell them for. My friend is pretty much broke, having lost her shop, and she claims she never would have sold them unless she thought they were hers to sell.

Like I said, I’m not rich, I just want my aunt’s paintings back. I feel terrible that I lent them, and now seem to have lost them. What can I do?

The Accidental Patron

Strictly Classified says: Your friend will not be able to produce a receipt for the artwork, and the dealer should have asked to see one. The dealer is essentially trafficking stolen goods; perhaps you could have an attorney make a call or send a letter on your behalf. One final thing, be more careful in the future (i.e. get it in writing)!

Smart Money says: Are you crazy? Why the devil would you loan valuable art to your flaky friend? Take her to small claims court, but don’t expect to get your money back. If she’s a decent person, she’ll set up a payment plan to repay you.

The Gay Perspective: Don’t you watch Judge Judy? Call the police, and if that doesn’t work, take her to court. Why on earth would you “give” pricey family art to this person? It is quite common to lend art; quite unusual to “give” it to a restaurant. People do desperate things when a business is failing. The antique dealer has purchased stolen goods. This “friendship” is over, and it is not your fault.

The Sales Guy says: Options are sketchy because you had no written agreement concerning who keeps ownership—was it a loan, etc. Did you explain the situation up front? If yes, you know it was an out-and-out theft, but hard to prove because it sounds like assumptions were flying. In which case, you’re screwed. She knew, but under pressure took the money and ran. Sorry.

The Practical Cogitator: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” The fact that you lent your Aunt’s paintings out to begin with indicates you felt no connection to the artwork. Why the sudden change of heart? If you want the paintings back now, buy them from the dealer. Looks like you learned your lesson. And your friend... well, your friend seems like an opportunist who is out of business and out of a friendship.

The Omniscient One says: You should either forget it and move on; see if your friend owns something you’d like to own in place of the paintings; or if you really want the paintings back tell your friend she needs to work out a payment plan for the $2,500 with the antique dealer and have them put aside until they’re paid off and you can take them home. Even if she only pays $25 a week you’ll have your paintings back in less than two years. Going to court will likely destroy your friendship forever and probably won’t result in you getting the painting back anyway.

The Gay Perspective: Yeah, that’s kind advice. I say the friendship with that lying thieving louse was over the second she claimed she thought the paintings were a gift.

The Omniscient One says: Yes, well of course she knew she was doing something wrong. But what are friends for?

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