Ghost painters, kidnapping, assassins, attempted murder by sneaking large Brazilian nuts into smoothies.
These are just some of the wild accusations that arise from lawsuits against those closest to the pop art feelings Peter Max.
It is a story of wealth and bankruptcy, of cruise ships and dementia. Everyone, from Max's wife to his own son, has been accused of abusing and even abusing him.
Compared to the silent life, the claims pale that one of the greatest personalities of the art world now lives, usually unaware of even what year it is.
Max, 81, now suffers from advanced dementia. Nine people with & # 39; direct knowledge of his condition & # 39; told it New York Times he did not paint seriously in four years.
This would surprise many who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on Max's art on cruise auctions, buying work from the studio that until recently was run by his son Adam.
A shocking new exhibition claimed that the estranged son of Pop Art sensation Peter Max (pictured in 2012) & # 39; ghost painters & # 39; hired to mimic his father's work and continued to make a profit, while Max himself went deeper into dementia and less and less able to create
Witnesses have claimed that a secret system of ghost painters has churned imitations of Max & # 39; s work for years.
Seven people told the Times that they saw painters in Max & # 39; s famous Manhattan studio that mimicked the colorful and psychedelic style that made him such a hit with hippies in the sixties and seventies.
They claim that some artists are recruited directly from the street and pay a minimum wage for paintings that later generate a $ 30,000 prize on a luxury cruise ship.
And among them, Max, disoriented and confused, would stick out a brush to draw his name on every work of art.
& # 39; The art of the cruise ship, he signs his name, but he leaves no eye close to art & # 39 ;, said Leo Bevilacqua, a photographer and close friend, the Times. & # 39; He is no longer able to do it. & # 39;
Max may have been a counterculture, but he wasn't afraid to cash in on his fame – and make money with it.
At the height of his popularity, he created art for the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the US Open and the White House law.
Seven people said they saw painters at Max & # 39; s famous Manhattan studio, mimicking the colorful and psychedelic style that made him such a hit with hippies in the sixties and seventies. Max is pictured here in 2014
At the height of his popularity, Max created art for the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the US Open and the White House law. Work can be seen here in his studio in 2012
His works could be seen on everything from sheets to breakfast boxes, to stamps and a piece of Berlin wall.
After getting into trouble with the IRS in 1997 – when he pleaded guilty to hiding $ 1.1 million of his income – Max expanded his collaboration with Park West Gallery.
It is a name known to anyone who has been on vacation at a major cruise company, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival.
Cruise ship auctions generate the majority of Park West Gallery's revenue, and a & # 39; Peter Max original & # 39; is their biggest sale for customers, who are willing to prepare up to $ 30,000.
His name has become so intertwined with cruise ships – which can save as much as 40 percent on Park West sales – that Norwegian even has a full Peter Max-themed ship. His torso is decorated with his Statue of Liberty.
Max had no problem with assistant painters stretching out his canvases and applying templates while tracking the demand for the cruise ship.
But Bevilacqua said he always did the actual painting until the dementia struck.
& # 39; These people would come in with signs and they would get a tenth, the backgrounds, & # 39; he said. & # 39; And Peter would make the images. & # 39;
In 1997, Max collaborated with Park West Gallery, which has been offering his artworks to cruise ships for auctions in the last two decades. His name has become so intertwined with cruise ships that the Norwegian even has an entire Peter Max thematic ship (pictured)
Park West came under fire after it became known that they were the lesser versions of Max & # 39; s works sold in cruise shows while & # 39; Peter & # 39; s keepers & # 39; s – as they were called & # 39; – were stored in a warehouse in New Jersey.
The cases have since been settled or settled and Park West maintains that every Max sold on every ship is unique.
For all controversy, sales have not been successful at Park West and Max & # 39; s studio – known as ALP Inc – is doing better financially than in years.
In 2012 the studio was on the verge of bankruptcy. It has since made more than $ 93million in sale, including more than $ 30million in net profit in 2018.
This is especially around the same time that Max & # 39; s dementia really started to interfere with his art, limiting him to more than drawing books or placing some paint on a canvas for an event.
But there were also brewing changes at ALP, which gets its name from Max and his two children.
Max & # 39; s son Adam and daughter Libra each received 40 percent of the company, while Max himself owned the remaining 20 percent.
As Adam became more involved in his father's company, he allegedly started following Max's movements. Max & # 39; s wife Mary (shown together with Prince Edward in 2009) asked the New York Supreme Court to appoint a guardian to oversee the artist's activities in 2015
But in 2012, insurance agent Laurence Moskowitz and accountant Robert Frank also came to help the company. Moskowitz would eventually get a 10 percent stake in ALP, a decision he said was made by Max, and began to encourage Adam to become more involved in daily activities.
Friends said it was then that everything changed in that famous studio above the Shun Lee Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side.
Suddenly surveillance cameras & doors with metal bars were installed in the studio. Witnesses said Adam and Moskowitz hired no less than 18 assistant painters to produce new Max originals in his famous aesthetic.
Adam is said to have followed Max & # 39; s phone conversations and movements, forcing him to visit several cities in one weekend to attend Park West sales events.
Traveling companions said the Max & # 39; schema was confused and exhausted & # 39; and, at one point, even polluted itself during a cruise.
The cooperation between father and son began to worry about Mary Max, the artist's second wife.
In 2015, Mary, 30 years Max & # 39; s junior, asked the New York Supreme Court to appoint a guardian to oversee the artist's activities.
But after a judge granted her request, Adam took Max out of his house for more than a month and shuffled him all over New York.
Mary claimed in court that Adam had kidnapped his father & # 39; & # 39; and refused to tell family and friends where he was.
She also claimed that private investigators had started following her and men confronted her on the street and told her to stay out of Max's trade.
Meanwhile, Adam claimed that Mary had physically and verbally abused his father – a claim that was even supported by the guardian she wanted to appoint.
Mary was admitted and told her that she wanted to rent a goon to damage Max's painting hand. One of her household staff claimed that she & # 39; large Brazil nuts & # 39; would put in Max's smoothies, hoping he would choke them.
But after a judge granted her request, Adam took Max out of his house for more than a month and shuffled him all over New York. Mary claimed in court that Adam had kidnapped his father & # 39; & # 39; and refused to tell family and friends where he was
But a lawyer designated by the court ruled that removing Max from his home with Mary & # 39; very harmful & # 39; would be, and noted how the artist said & # 39; several times, without suggesting how much he loved his wife & # 39 ;.
A judge then ordered Max to once again be placed under Mary & # 39; s care and that a guardian would oversee both his business and personal affairs.
Rumblings continued in the art world that Max no longer created. Two New York businessmen claimed in one lawsuit that they had heard Moskowitz say that Max hadn't painted & # 39; in years & # 39 ;.
Moskowitz & # 39; s lawyer denied that he ever made such a statement. He said that in recent years Moskowitz had seen Max painting on a canvas, but he could not confirm that Max himself made complete works of art.
Last year Park West hired art lawyer Luke Nikas and former FBI agent Robert Wittman to investigate the allegations.
Paul Schwiep, another Park West lawyer, told the Times that he and Scaglione had visited Max in his studio in February. He said that Max was painting and even & # 39; complained about how much he was working & # 39 ;.
& (39) (He) said that he has never been busier in his life & # 39 ;, Schwiep claimed.
Nikas later told the Times that Schwiep & # 39; misspoke & # 39; and that Max had just signed photos & # 39; s that day.
In January, his daughter Libra, who lives in Los Angeles, and his guardian voted to have Adam removed from the company. She has since gone after Park West
Libra said she wanted to bring her father's studio back to its original & # 39; vision & # 39 ;, with new plans to show his earlier work in galleries and museums. It is shown here in 2014
While Nikas confirmed that Max was suffering from dementia, he discovered that the studio & # 39; every legal standard you can think of & # 39; met and said that other artists such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons had relied on others to paint or make their art.
He even went so far as to say that the Max & # 39; process allows ordinary people to buy something authentic & # 39 ;.
But Max's husband wasn't the only one in his family who worried about his declining health and increasing productivity.
In January, his daughter Libra, who lives in Los Angeles, and his guardian voted to have Adam removed from ALP.
She has since been appointed president and chief executive, fired Moskowitz, Frank, and many of the assistant painters, and filed a lawsuit to prevent Adam from coming into contact with the company.
Libra filed a lawsuit against Park West last month and claimed it was $ 100 million from the & # 39; custodians & # 39; from her father cost – about 23,000 paintings – and paid only $ 14.7 million for them.
Libra said she wanted to bring her father's studio back to its original & # 39; vision & # 39 ;, with new plans to show his earlier work in galleries and museums.
After a wild ride fit for his own movie, it seems that this story is finally linked.
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