Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich

This action arose from the relationship between famed 20th century artist Alexander Calder and the Perls Gallery, which served as Calder’s exclusive dealer in the United States. As Calder and the owners of the Gallery are deceased, this action was brought by the executors of the Calder estate against the estates of Klaus Perls and his wife Amelia, and related entities and individuals. The complaint contended that the defendants were in possession of certain instruments known as “signing wires” used by Calder to stamp his name on metal works of art, as well as other Calder works on paper related to mobiles and choreography. The plaintiffs also claimed that the defendants were in possession of or had disposed of 15 enumerated Calder works, which also rightfully belonged to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs moved for leave to amend the complaint to add a cause of action for breach of contract due to the defendants’ failure or refusal to deliver these items. The court denied the motion and dismissed the complaint, finding that the plaintiffs are attempting to litigate issues that necessarily stretch back decades without any personal knowledge or contemporaneous records, where nearly all of the people who had personal knowledge of the facts are dead.