Dispute ends, allowing Sopher sale to proceed


Nearly 100 drawings and watercolors by the late and beloved Baltimore satirical artist Aaron Sopher will be auctioned as scheduled Sunday after a possible legal hitch was removed yesterday. The sale will take place at 1 p.m. at Harris Auction Galleries on North Howard Street.

The obstacles were overcome when lawyers for Mr. Sopher's heirs, daughters Erika Sopher Norwood and Christina Sopher Neumann, withdrew an application filed in Federal District Court for a temporary restraining order.

At issue was a dispute between the Sopher daughters and Peter Hastings Falk, who is selling the Sopher works. Mr. Falk, who seeks out and promotes artists' estates, entered into a contract with the Sopher heirs, under which heearlier this year published a book, "Aaron Sopher: Satirist of the American Condition" and curated a Sopher show at the Baltimore Museum of Art. As compensation, he selected 100 Sopher works from the estate of about 2,000. All but four of the 100 are to be sold Sunday.

The application for restraining order claimed Mr. Falk had taken the 100 works in compensation "before all of the required services have been rendered" and that the proposed auction would "suppress the values" of the daughters' remaining works.

Robin C. Alexander-Smith, an attorney representing the heirs, said yesterday evening, "We think we have worked out a way to protect [the daughters'] interest and yet allow the auction to proceed."

The Sopher works to be auctioned include many of his typical scenes in and around Baltimore, at race tracks, at museums, at the beach, on the streets. They include both pen and ink drawings and watercolors and are estimated to bring between $200 and $1,000 each. Seventeen of them were in the BMA show.

Jay M. Fisher, BMA curator of prints, drawings and photographs, said earlier this week that if the museum had known Mr. Falk intended to sell the works so soon, "we would not have ZTC undertaken [a show]," because "it gives the appearance of the museum's putting public effort toward enriching someone."

But he added, "Peter very generously worked with us on this show without a fee, and I felt that it was a very workable way of doing a small Sopher exhibition."

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