Distant relatives of Darger, a pagan artist who died in 1973, filed a claim for control of the estate after being warned by a collector of vintage photography about their potential rights.
The former Chicago artist’s landlord, Kiyoko Lerner, who managed the care and sale of Darger’s work for decades both alone and with her husband, Nathan, before his death, filed the petition. Ask family members, question them. reliable and claim that they did not comply with state law and did not establish that the next of kin are the legal heirs.
“The sole basis for asserting that Plaintiff is an heir is upon a report by a third party,” Lerner argued in court papers, “for which Lerner is entitled to a merit hearing to determine whether this report is reliable and can be relied upon by this Court. ”
Lerner also said she was not informed of the family’s claim, but instead learned about it after a query from The New York Times.
But the probate judge Kent A. Delgado on Wednesday said there were “a lot of holes” in Lerner’s court documents and that he needed to reconsider her own heir status. He rescheduled the hearing to May 24.
“At this point,” he told Lerner attorney Eric Kalnins, “I don’t believe your client is qualified to know that she is the heir.”
When Darger died, he left behind a single room crammed with his colorful illustrations, a 15,000-page book, and no immediate survivors. In court papers, Lerner asserts that Darger was an “unattended loner” who “gave all of his belongings to my late husband, Nathan Lerner, before he passed away”.
Lerners continued to lend and sell Darger’s works to museums, galleries and collectors, which established Darger as a leading, or untrained, artist. His work was sold privately for $800,000 and high $745,076 at auction.
Most significant is Darger’s 15,000-page illustrated novel with a lengthy title, which has been split with sections sold separately.
The novel – “The Story of the Vivian Girls, in the So-called Unreal Kingdom, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion” – describes a war epic between the innocent children of Abbieannia and the violent adults of Glandelinia.
Darger’s relatives – most of whom are first cousins twice or thrice removed – have recently been followed by Ron Slatterywho also helped discover the work of Vivian Maiera nanny and street photographer whose property is similarly disputed by family members and remains unresolved.
With the help of HeirSearch, a forensic genealogy company, family members identified Darger’s descendants listed in the probate papers. Christen Sadowski, a relative of Darger’s who is the most important person to the family, said their statement was “about disregarding something wrong.”
The dispute highlights difficult territory over how heritage and copyright should be handled following the deaths of largely unknown artists. Regarding the Darger document, a 2019 article in the law journal of Northwestern University questioned whether under federal and Illinois law, landlords are correct in acknowledging rights.
James Brett, founder of tourism Museum of all thingsperhaps the most consistent, extensive exhibitor of Darger’s work, said in an email that he was pleased to see Darger’s estate under review.
“I know the artist’s work well,” Brett writes, “and have long felt that the host family’s copyright, as well as their shared approach, is inappropriate.”
But others argue that, if it weren’t for Lerners, Darger’s work would never have been recognized. Michael Bonesteel, editor of “Henry Darger: Art and Selected Writings“Published by Rizzoli in 2000, it was said that ‘Kiyoko and Nathan did a great job’, and that ‘they deserved the money because they worked hard to preserve it for posterity. “
Robert Chiarito contributed reporting from Chicago.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/arts/design/henry-darger-hearing.html Henry Darger’s estate dispute hearing adjourned