Well-known New York art advisor Lisa Schiff is being sued for $2.05 million by a trio of clients who have accused her of failing to deliver to them the proceeds they were owed from the sale of a painting. Collectors Candace Barasch, Richard Grossman, and Grossman’s spouse in a May 11 New York Supreme Court filing accused Schiff and her company Schiff Fine Arts of “running a Ponzi scheme,” funding her “lavish lifestyle” by taking money from one client to pay another. Bolstering their case are firsthand reports of Schiff’s profligate spending by Barasch, who often traveled with the advisor as the latter helped her build a collection.
According to the filing, Schiff, who was a longstanding friend of both Barasch and Grossman’s spouse, in 2021 shepherded the purchase by the three collectors of Adrian Ghenie’s 2019 painting The Uncle 3, with Barasch acquiring a 50 percent share and the Grossmans 25 percent each. Though Schiff charged the buyers for shipping and packing supplies, none of them ever saw the painting, which remained in a Delaware storage unit until around late 2022, when the trio sold the painting for $2.5 million. Schiff again brokered the sale, which was made through Sotheby’s Hong Kong. By mid-January 2023, the advisor had sent $225,000 each to Barasch and the Grossmans and collected her own 10 percent fee, promising to distribute the remaining $1.8 million owed the collectors to them by March 26.
As the date neared, citing delayed payment on the part of the Hong Kong buyers, Schiff asked for a thirty-day extension, which the trio granted. With April 26 approaching, Schiff requested two more weeks, again pointing to the Hong Kong buyers as behind the delay but insisting they were not abandoning the deal. Grossman, who was counting on the $900,000 payout owed him and his spouse to fund his in-laws’ move to assisted living, grew restless and on May 8 his spouse confronted Schiff. Schiff confessed that she did not have the money she owed the trio and suggested they get a lawyer.