Jack Solomon and Steven Speilberg were in a legal battle over a Norman Rockwell painting titled ‘Russian Schoolroom’ that was stolen by someone mixed up in the assassination of Martin Luther King.
I believe it was around 1980 that my late sister, Christine Rosamond Benton, began doing lithographs and showing them at the Circle Gallery that was located on Maiden Lane in San Francisco, and was owned by Jack Solomon. One of Rosamond’s biographers says she was thinking of going back with Circle Gallery just before she died in 1994. This appears to be the case, she having shows in Denver, New York, and other major cities. Stacy Pierrot says she came back to Carmel from one of these shows the day Christine drowned. At her funeral, Stacey approached my mother and I in the courtyard in front of the gallery, and told us Rosamond’s career was being revitalized by these shows. She then got down on one knee, took Rosemary’s hand, and made this plea;
“Don’t let the dream die!”
There now ensued a nightmarish fight over Rosamond’s creative legacy, and, the reopening of the Rosamond Gallery. I wondered what became of the deal with Circle Galleries. Why pay $5,000 dollars a month to rent this gallery (at the expense of my nieces) when Jack Solomon has gathered together his old stable of artists, and was back in business? In looking at the list of these artists, there is no mention of Rosamond. I wonder why?
Today I discovered Jack is dead. I had tried to contact him back in 1997, but he never returned my call. My aunt Lillian told me Jack and his wife had become her close friends. When I asked her to put me in touch with Jack, she changed the subject.
What I came to suspect was Christine committed suicide. Did Pierrot return to Carmel bringing bad news, such as, Jack let her boss go? Christine hated doing shows. Jack would want her at these shows. Did he conclude Pierrot was not a worthy replacement, and thus, my sister violated her contract? A week after her daughter drowned, Rosemary made one remark about this alleged accident;
“Like Virginia Wolfe, she walked into the water.”
The famed author put stones in her pocket and drowned herself. If Christine did the same, then Jack would not want this revealed because people would ask why? Fellow artists might rebel and leave enmass because Christine’s success is a litany of exploitation. Jack was running a high class art factory, and many famous artists knew it. They went along with this, breeding of sure winners, because they needed the money.
In 1974 Christine offered to teach me her style so I can be famous and rich, too. I turned this offer down because I wanted to be a real artist, verses a commercial artist. Christine them told me she does not feel like a real artist, and asked me to help her achieve this. However, the thuroghbred was out of the gate and winning another purse. Hence, it was hard to get a word out Rosamond about her success. At art shows, they lined up, and grilled her! They wanted simple answers to simple questions, and never got them.
Above is a serigraph by Rosamond titled ‘Lena and her Sisters’. Lena was our maid. This image looks like a Rockwell who rendered a Cold War scene that is susposed to be chilling. It depicts the forced worship of a Lenin, who has replaced the All American worship of Jesus, a Jew. Note the roses on the Lenin altar. Consider the Roza Mira prophecy.
Spielberg is a Jew who became famous for depicting the new middle class ambience from a child’s perspective. Steven is worth three billion dollars and has been knighted. Has Steven addressed the fact there are millions of blacks living in his American landscape, that millions believe don’t belong there? Steven does Lincoln – and washes his hands?
Note the girl in pigtails. Have we seen her before? Is Norman suggesting these is an American Schoolhouse – in dangers of being transformed by the Red Menace?
Well, thanks to Putin, the Cold War is back. Putin is a devout Christian, so gone is the bust of Lenin! Both Steven and Norman have employed their art to make propaganda which was the magical ingredient Jack Solomon used to make and break gifted people. Jack was a Capitalist that put Circle Galleries on the Stock Market. And then the Art Market crashed. There are stock actors. Slave owners treated their slaves like stock. Lenis was out to stop the exploitation of human beings. This black girl no longer has value to southern men who shame her and threaten her with violence because she wants to go to school.
When are the smoke and mirrors are gone, and the last of the rogue waves have had their way, the truth nears, and, indeed is here……Jack Solomon threw Rosamond away because she wasn’t selling anymore, wasn’t making money for him so he could pay off his debts he acquired via art speculating.
Christine Rosamond Benton, who is kin to John and Jessie Fremont who were backed by Radical Republicans, no longer had value. What is truly frightening, many southern men back Putin because he is a Christian, and, there are not black people in his landscapes. Not so in America! That Russian boy looking wistfully out the window, may want to be the President of Russian come day!
Consider the movie ‘Monuments Men’ and Rosamond’s autobiography that was disappeared. Was it a tell-all from a business perspective? What else was there really to talk about. Christine had an affair with a master printer.
Here is the video of my meeting with Belle, my new muse. What a thrill! You can not teach this thrill to others. You can’t corrupt real artists, and their loyal muses. Belle has restored me. She has given me new life. She has set me free! We are an American Adventure, and, a real Dream come true!
He was the awarded the knighthood by British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer to recognise Spielberg’s “unique and outstanding contribution to international film”.
“The truth is, I stand before you now and I’m a knight,” said Spielberg afterwards.
He added: “This is the stuff that all of our childhood fantasies come from. You know, courtliness, civility and honour.”
Las Vegas art dealer Jack Solomon dies at age 83
Jack Solomon, owner of S2Art lithography printing studio in Las Vegas, stands by the vintage 1870 Paris-made press he used to print Norman Rockwell lithographs in the 1960s, when he worked with the artist.
As bargain-hunting customers sift through what’s left of Circle Fine Art Corp.’s flagship gallery on North Michigan Avenue, ousted Chairman John “Jack” Solomon is setting up business a few blocks north. His new operation-surprise!-looks very similar to his old company.
Mr. Solomon and his wife, Carolyn, who was formerly president of Circle Fine Art, this week are opening Solomon & Solomon gallery at 70 E. Oak St. They’ve also opened galleries in Kansas City and New Orleans, started a lithographic printing plant in New York and are negotiating to buy a jewelry production facility in Arizona.
Circle Fine Art thrived in the same businesses until 1990, when the bottom dropped out of the worldwide art market, sending publicly traded Circle into a tailspin that resulted in a takeover by new investors two years ago.
The company in February filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors, from which it still hopes to emerge after liquidation sales.
The Solomons-freed by the filing from a non-compete clause they had with Circle-began planning their return to the art world.
Many competitors have derided Mr. Solomon’s chain-store art concept-Circle had 40 galleries nationwide at its peak-but it clearly appeals to a wide audience. The art market is now enjoying a moderate recovery, and Mr. Solomon has repaired relationships with many leading artists-relationships that had been ruptured during Circle’s decline.
“I think the new venture can work,” says Frank Gallo, a renowned Urbana artist who has been selling his work through Circle since 1972. An exhibition of Mr. Gallo’s paper castings is tentatively planned for November at the new Solomon & Solomon gallery. “This time, it will be just Jack and Carolyn in control,” says Mr. Gallo. “Circle was a public company, and they were answerable to too many people before. They’re in an ideal situation now.”
The Solomons will jump-start their new gallery with many pieces from their extensive private collection, including a dozen Picasso drawings. When the Solomons ran Circle, prices at the gallery commonly ranged from $1,000 to $7,500. Solomon & Solomon will include works selling for more than $25,000.
Still in the game
Meanwhile, Circle Fine Art has a few brush strokes left. The company, which owes lead creditor Standard Chartered Bank of London $13 million, has closed 12 of its 20 branches over the past year. The liquidation sale has peddled just 20,000 works out of the company’s 350,000-piece inventory.
Says Joseph R. Atkin, Circle Fine Art’s president and CEO since March: “In the past several months, we’ve been able to make our scheduled payments to the bank, and now we’re looking to open more locations again so we can expand our liquidation sale.”
He says Circle is considering new gallery sites in west suburban Geneva as well as in Texas and Florida. “We still hope to settle with our remaining creditors and put together a reorganization plan early next year. It’s possible that Circle could continue in business,” says Mr. Atkin, a former Circle Fine Art chief financial officer.
However, the company is embroiled in lawsuits with hundreds of artists who sent it work on consignment, only to see the pieces seized by the bank as company assets.
The controversy has been a source of embarrassment to Mr. Solomon, who prided himself on his personal relationships with such prominent artists as Erte, Peter Max and Victor Vasarely.
Jack Solomon is in his book-laden office in the Las Vegas Arts District when he gets a call from the FBI.
His Norman Rockwell painting, stolen 34 years ago, has been recovered.
Great, Solomon says, expecting to throw a big party in honor of the painting’s return, clear space on a wall in his Las Vegas home or even sell it for a hefty profit.
But that was more than a year ago. Solomon, owner of the lithography company S2Art, has yet to see the work. In fact, the fight over Rockwell’s “Russian Schoolroom” — painted during the Cold War — has been dragging on for more than a year. Solomon and Rhode Island art dealer Judy Goffman Cutler both claim ownership. They continue to add to the stacks of suits and countersuits, claims and counterclaims, motions, depositions and accusations of inconsistent stories, threats and intentional wrongdoing.
The battle also involves filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who owned the painting when the FBI listed the work as stolen.
The Art Loss Register, a London-based art recovery business that Solomon retained, is in the thick of it. Also involved are the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., a reporter from a Missouri newspaper and one of Solomon’s former employees.
Experts say it could be a year before the case goes to trial and that Cutler and Solomon have already spent more than the painting’s estimated value, which the FBI put at $700,000, the Associated Press has reported.
“I just want my painting back,” Solomon says.
Laurence Cutler, Judy’s architect husband, says that’s not going to happen. “There is really no case here,” he says. “She bought it clear and free. He has no rights to it. It’s that simple. It really is ridiculous, this whole thing.”
But it’s never that simple.
“These are difficult cases to resolve,” says Ronald Spencer, a New York attorney who specializes in art law. “Someone’s got to lose. The question is, ‘Who loses?’ You have the owner and you have the good-faith purchaser.”
Recovery of stolen art is sometimes only the beginning of a long legal process. If the person who has possession of the stolen property refuses to return it (for whatever reason, and there are many), it goes to court.
Go back to 1967. Norman Rockwell, the quintessential American illustrator, had gravitated away from his homey scenes for more controversial subjects such as “The Problem We All Live With,” a compelling portrait about school integration. His 16-by-37-inch oil of Russian students with a bust of Lenin at the front of the classroom is a sign of the times. Lyndon B. Johnson and Leonid Brezhnev edge toward detente. The United States and the then-Soviet Union ban nuclear weapons in space.
In 1968 Solomon, the exclusive dealer of Rockwell lithographs, buys “Russian Schoolroom.” He lends it to a Clayton, Mo., gallery showing Rockwell lithographs five years later. The gallery was part of the larger Chicago-based Circle Galleries, of which Solomon was a principal.
The painting sells for $20,000 at the exhibition, but is stolen from the gallery in a middle-of-the-night smash and grab. It disappears. Solomon files a police report, and the gallery returns the money to the buyer and collects the insurance money.
Headlines of the theft fade from local papers.
In 1988 “Russian Schoolroom” resurfaces at a New Orleans auction, where Cutler buys it for $70,400, puts it in a traveling exhibit, then sells it in 1989 to Spielberg for $200,000.
In 2007, Spielberg’s assistant finds the painting listed on the FBI’s National Stolen Art File. Spielberg contacts the FBI. The FBI contacts Solomon and Solomon waits for the return of his painting.
The painting never arrives.
In May 2007 Solomon begins a lengthy and detailed court case when he files a complaint against Spielberg and FBI Director Robert Mueller to recover possession of the painting, which Spielberg is directed by the FBI to hold onto while the matter is sorted out.
Cutler, trying to remove longtime client Spielberg from the mess, trades Rockwell’s “Peace Corps in Ethiopia” for “Russian Schoolroom.”
In October, a U.S. magistrate judge discharges Spielberg “from any and all liability to all parties with respect to the painting.” In December Spielberg seeks recovery of attorney’s fees of more than $47,000 from Solomon and Cutler.
The court orders the two to split the cost of moving and storing the painting in a climate-controlled Las Vegas warehouse. Neither can visit the work without court permission, and where would they find the time? Both are tied up in the nitty-gritty of filings and research.
In a perfect world, Cutler would reimburse Spielberg, take back the painting and return it to the auction house. “Ordinarily an upstanding auction (house) will take the work back and basically reimburse everybody involved,” says Christopher Marinello, executive director and general counsel of The Art Loss Register, which Cutler is also suing.
But the house from which Cutler bought the painting, Morton M. Goldberg Auction Galleries Inc., went bankrupt, and its owner died.
Franklin Feldman, chairman of the law advisory council of the International Foundation for Art Research, says a painting sold by a thief cannot pass along “good title,” even when it’s bought in good faith. But subsequent purchasers can use defenses to protect their ownership: The original owner waited too long to bring his claim or he didn’t effectively advertise and report the loss. The statute of limitations, in some cases, doesn’t begin until the original owner makes a claim against the new owner.
The Cutlers own the National Museum of American Illustration, located inside their mansion in Newport, R.I. Judy Goffman Cutler says she works seven days a week to prove her case and discount Solomon’s efforts to list the painting as stolen. Solomon and his five attorneys are filing to prove that Cutler did not buy the painting in good faith.
At this point, the usually outspoken Solomon refers questions directly to court documents because the lawyer-turned-businessman already has been slammed with a $25 million libel suit for telling a reporter for an alternative weekly newspaper in St. Louis Cutler “should have known better … She could have checked that — there’s been a record of this ever since the day it was stolen.” The case was dismissed in August.
IFAR’s Feldman, who says Solomon’s attorney has asked him to be an expert witness, says the major contention will be what Solomon did and what he could have done when the theft occurred.
Solomon filed a burglary report. He says there was no database of stolen art until 1977, when IFAR formed its list, although he didn’t register the painting when the database was formed.
Interpol had its register at the time of the theft, but Solomon says it was his understanding the FBI listed the artwork with Interpol.
After purchasing the work, Cutler toured and advertised the painting, which was written about in a couple of antiques periodicals. It was this publicity that prompted a former employee of Solomon’s to contact Jack and Carolyn Solomon. The ex-employee says they never returned her calls. A newspaper reporter, who also left messages for the Solomons, says his calls were not returned.
Marinello of the Art Loss Register — known for recovering work stolen by the Nazis during World War II — says he’s not willing to discuss pending cases. But he says he is astounded that cases ever come to this.
“I don’t expect people to fight so vociferously against a theft victim,” he says. “I can understand a person fighting to protect their rights, but it gets ridiculous when both sides spend more money on legal fees than the value of the painting.”
Often, he says, “people are shaking down the victim a second time. Art recovery is extremely difficult. It’s very rare where someone will do the right thing. Now everyone gets lawyers involved. It’s all about greed.”
Sun librarian Rebecca Clifford-Cruz contributed to this story.
A former Loop lawyer with a lifelong love of art, Mr. Solomon founded Circle Fine Art in the basement of his Highland Park home in 1964, when he began reselling works from Europe to culture-hungry neighbors.
The company was a hodgepodge of 10 locations by 1973, when he married Carolyn, who took over as chief operating officer and centralized operations. They took Circle public in 1985 and kept growing the business. Through 1990, the company enjoyed 25 years of rising sales and profits.
Mr. Solomon, who will turn 68 in a few weeks, insists he won’t repeat the mistakes of Circle, which found itself with too much debt when the Gulf War in 1990 sent art prices into a downward spiral.
He and Ms. Solomon, 53, are investing some $300,000 of their own money to open the Oak Street gallery, and they expect annual sales of $1.2 million, modest compared with Circle Fine Art’s 1990 sales of $41.3 million. Featured artists will include painter Sandro Chia and sculptor Ernest Trova.
The couple’s two branches in Kansas City and New Orleans, both in former Circle locations, are called America’s Gallery and are altogether different from the flagship operation. They carry popularly priced pieces of animation art, lithographs and cinegraphs, which are illuminated stills from old Hollywood films.
Observers believe the Solomons’ timing in re-entering the Chicago art market is good.
“We haven’t returned to the boom times of the 1980s, but the market is recovering somewhat,” says Carl Hammer, owner of Carl Hammer Gallery on Superior Street.
Adds Natalie van Straaten, executive director of the Chicago Art Dealers Assn.: “This is a very good time to be opening a gallery. Most dealers are seeing more sales activity, and there’s a positive spirit within the art community of late.”
Nevertheless, many connoisseurs are skeptical that the Solomons can run both a high-toned gallery off Michigan Avenue and a chain of low-priced branches elsewhere.
“Circle Fine Art has dealt mostly in what I call mall art-schlock goods that are usually overpriced and have no collectible value,” says Franz Schulze, professor of art at Lake Forest College. “But it’s a free market. If people want this kind of art, then there will always be people around willing to sell it to them.”
The Solomons have heard such criticisms in the past, and make no apologies for what they sell. They still own a 5%-plus stake in Circle Fine Art, but with the stock trading for a few pennies, they’ve lost virtually all of their investment. Still wealthy, with residences on Chicago’s Near North Side, in New York and Scottsdale, Ariz., they insist that this time around, their goal is, as Mr. Solomon says, “to have some fun with our art.”
Concludes Mr. Gallo, the artist: “Jack has always been a populist with egalitarian tastes, and he likes the idea of sharing those tastes with the people. In the process, he’s never afraid to be commercial, to figure out ways to make money at what he loves doing.”
Circle Fine Art Corp. plans to spice up the usual displays of paintings and cartoon art in two of its galleries with photographs from Playboy.
The Chicago-based firm, which operates 28 art galleries in the U.S. and Canada, has signed a three-year agreement with Playboy Enterprises Inc. to exhibit and sell about 60 limited-edition photographs that appeared in the magazine over the last 40 years.
“The pictures will be evocative but tasteful,” says Barry S. Podgorsky, a Circle vice president. “About half of them will be cover art but, as far as I know, there won’t be any centerfolds.”
A spokeswoman for Playboy, however, says the display will be “a real mixture. Almost all of the photographs will be of beautiful women, including some nudes.”
The first exhibit will open March 28 in the Circle Gallery on Michigan Avenue. A second showing is scheduled for April 20 in the Circle Gallery-Soho in New York City.
While Playboy sold some original art from its magazine several years ago, this will be the first time it has offered photographs for sale. The collection will include color and black-and-white formats, with prices ranging from $600 to $10,000. Each will come with the photographer’s signature and a certificate of authenticity.
Jack Solomon, who founded Circle in 1964, sold control of the gallery firm to an investor group late last year after the firm lost money for three years in a row. But Podgorsky, who runs the company’s Eastern operations, says he began discussions with Playboy about the venture more than a year ago.
Photo: Leila Navidi
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Las Vegas art dealer and Downtown arts scene figure Jack Solomon passed away August 18 at the age of 83, leaving behind his mark in Arts District history—namely his role in the Boulder Plaza sculpture park, his tenure on the Las Vegas Arts Commission and his S2 Art business, formerly at the corner of Main Street and Charleston Boulevard.
Additionally, Solomon, who along with his wife, Carolyn, moved S2 Art Group headquarters to Las Vegas in 2001, owned parcels of property in the Arts District. During the high-rise craze that swept over the valley, Solomon had his own plans for turning some of that property into galleries, a museum and living spaces known as Vegas Moderne.
“When my dad and Carolyn moved there, they had such enormous enthusiasm,” says Alisa Solomon, daughter of Jack. “My dad couldn’t wait to take us around and show us Las Vegas, not just the Strip, but also the Arts District. He was so excited about it. He was excited about the growth and expansion of Las Vegas and he wanted to be a part of it.
“He really loved the mix of high culture, glitz and populism.”
The Solomons had longtime experience in the art world, selling limited-edition works and prints for decades. They moved to Las Vegas from Chicago where they’d been running S2 Art since 1996. Prior to that, they owned and operated Circle Fine Art Corporation. Their galleries sold works by Tom Everhart, Waldemar Swierzy, Stanley Mouse, Victor Vassarely, Todd Goldman and more. Often, artists would come to sign limited edition prints of the works.
Solomon would also come to be known for his public battles with Arts Factory owner Wes Myles over the direction of Boulder Plaza Sculpture Park and he was one of the first to speak out against First Friday when it transformed from a more intimate art crawl into a street festival.
Forthright, passionate and outspoken, Solomon had his friends and enemies and will be remembered by many in Las Vegas.
“He was a good guy. He was a tough guy. He was controversial, but he was never absolute,” says Patrick Duffy, art collector and board president of the Las Vegas Art Museum. “From my experience he was always open to hearing the other side.”
“Whether his position was about his business or his position was about community, it was still about art,” adds Duffy, who served with Solomon on the Las Vegas Arts Commission. “It was art centric. He was a businessman. But profit’s not a dirty word. Gallerists need profit. They need to know the community is behind them.
“All of us entered Solomon’s life at a time that was a sunset time in his life. All the topics we wanted to share with him, he had already gone through.”
Former Mayor Oscar Goodman, who played a role in drawing Solomon to Las Vegas, says Solomon was truly dedicated to art in this community. “We’re going to miss his commitment, his enthusiasm and his energy,” Goodman says. “He really believed that Las Vegas deserved to have an artistic core.”
By Carol ClingLAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Art dealer and entrepreneur Jack Solomon, whose S2 Art Group became a fixture in Las Vegas’ downtown Arts District, died Saturday in a local hospice because of complications from prostate cancer. He was 83.
Although Solomon spent almost 10 years fighting prostate cancer and other health problems – including heart surgery a few years ago – he “was at home almost to the very end,” according to daughter Alisa Solomon, who noted her father’s determination to remain active and involved despite his illness.
Solomon and his wife, Carolyn, moved from Chicago to Las Vegas in 2001, bringing with them the S2 Art Group and Jack Gallery, which they launched in 1996.
For a decade, their offices and studio – featuring rare, century-old lithography presses made in Paris – stood as an Arts District anchor on Charleston Boulevard; the S2 Art Center is now on South Valley View Boulevard.
Before founding the S2 Art Group and Jack Gallery, the Solomons operated Circle Fine Art Corp., a national network of 38 galleries that specialized in limited-edition fine art graphics, which they operated until 1993.
Solomon spent more than five decades producing, publishing and selling fine art prints, representing a wide range of art, from the Americana of Norman Rockwell and the art deco of Erte to the op art of Victor Vasarely and the vibrant energy of LeRoy Neiman, who used to visit Solomon at S2’s Arts District location.
Solomon was born Oct. 25, 1928, in Omaha, Neb. He earned cum laude bachelor of science and bachelor of laws degrees from the University of Nebraska, where he was a champion debater and wrote musical revues. Solomon later attended the University of Michigan School of Law, where he earned a master of laws degree.
Solomon began his legal career with a Chicago corporate firm and rose to become a senior managing partner of a firm specializing in art and entertainment law, where his high-profile clients included Gloria Swanson, George Raft and Margaret O’Brien.
Also in Chicago, Solomon founded Piper’s Alley Corp., helping to redevelop the city’s Old Town neighborhood with the Victorian-themed shopping center.
With his wife, Carolyn, and daughter, Alisa Solomon of New York City, Solomon is survived by daughters Debby Simon of Overland Park, Kan., and Rena Solomon of Evanston, Ill.; son Michael Solomon of Ann Arbor, Mich.; and three grandchildren.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Shalom Memorial Park in Chicago; details of a planned Las Vegas memorial have not yet been determined. The family requested contributions to The Hope Foundation (www.thehopefoundation.org), which conducts clinical trials to treat and combat cancer, or to the Epilepsy Therapy Project (www.epilepsy.com).
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.