Hundreds of artworks held by Los Angeles’s defunct blue-chip Ace Gallery are being liquidated via an online auction as the scandal-ridden story of its founder, Douglas Chrismas, nears a close.
Online bidding has been open since August 12 for roughly 300 artworks that represent the last inventory of Ace Gallery, whose roster included sought-after artists for decades. The auction is being hosted on LiveAuctioneers, and it is being managed by ThreeSixty Asset Advisors, a firm whose specialities include the liquidation of insolvent businesses. The auction was first reported in the Art Newspaper.
Proceeds from the sale will be used to settle debts outstanding since Chrismas filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Bidding closes on September 13.
Chrismas founded Ace Gallery in 1967 and, over 50 years, built a formidable profile on its early promotion of marque talents in Minimalism, Light and Space Art, and Land art, including Richard Serra, Michael Heizer, and Ed Ruscha. A 2022 ARTnews exposé detailed decades of allegations of disappearing unsold artworks, withheld payments, financial mismanagement, and the fabrication of certain works. (The sculptor Donald Judd famously took out an ad in Artforum accusing the gallery of staging an exhibition “wrongly attributed” to the artist.)
Ace Gallery filed for bankruptcy in 2013 amid what Chrismas claimed was a real-estate spat with the gallery’s landlord. Three years later, after failing to post a court-ordered payment of $17.5 million, Chrismas was fired from Ace Gallery by Sam Leslie, the forensic accountant assigned to the gallery’s bankruptcy proceedings. According to the report Leslie filed with the court in May 2016, Chrismas also had some 60 artworks that had not been accounted for in his bankruptcy trial in a private storage facility.
In July 2021, Chrismas was charged with three federal counts of embezzlement. The following May, a federal court ordered him to pay $14.2 million in a bankruptcy case that began in 2013. By 2022, he was the subject of 55 lawsuits filed under his own name and various business names and had declared several bankruptcies.
The artworks and objects—described on the LiveAuctioneers website as “the final works in the ACE Collection and the end of an era”—are a paltry monument to Ace’s former holdings. Lots range from vintage Issey Miyake couture to a Chuck Close daguerreotype and several Chris Taggart sculptures.
The most highly priced work is a 1977 aluminum bench by Robert Wilson, the visual artist and theater director who founded New York’s Watermill Center. The bench (which has a broken leg, according to LiveAuctioneers) was created for Wilson’s play I Was Sitting on My Patio This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Hallucinating. The high estimate is $29,200; the current bid is $2,900.