Who is the secret buyer of J. Ezra Merkin's Rothkos?

We did not see J. Ezra Merkin at services at the Atlantic Beach Jewish Center this past Shabbos. Now that the news has broken, we speculate that he might have been home in Manhattan, spending one last weekend with his expensive art collection.

While the WSJ provides further details about the seizure and forced sale of J. Ezra Merkin's Rothko art, it raises questions in our mind about who is the secret buyer for this art.

And more, it focuses us again on secrecy - the primary sin committed by Merkin against his investors. Ezra secretly turned over his investor's monies to Bernie Madoff who promptly paid Ezra handsomely for helping him perpetuate his grand ponzi scheme.

Merkin continues his secret dealings - now with the sale of the Rothkos - even after having been busted in about the most public fashion possible.

The identity of the buyer will come out soon. So what is the point of avoiding honesty and transparency?

The WSJ article insinuates that the price paid was inflated - in a weak art market - thus predictably raising further suspicions about yet another Merkin transaction.
...Rothko, one of the pioneers of abstract expressionism, whose works are highly prized by collectors, was famous for his large blocks of color that seemed to float on the canvasses. Giacometti, born in Switzerland, became one of the leading surrealist sculptors, known for his spindly human forms.

Mr. Merkin's collection includes one very large work that was a sketch for murals that Rothko had been commissioned to paint for the Four Seasons restaurant in 1959 in the Seagram Building in midtown New York. Rothko, who had an open distaste for the elite, withdrew from the project before installing the works, saying they weren't appropriate for a flashy eatery of the rich.

Art dealers say the total price agreed upon by the unidentified buyer for the Rothkos and Giacomettis appears high, especially in today's soft art market. The highest price ever paid for a Rothko was $72.8 million, fetched in May 2007 at a Sotheby's auction for a painting called "White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)," which was sold by David Rockefeller.

But the Rockefeller Rothko -- coveted in part for its Rockefeller provenance -- was an outlier. Other top-selling Rothkos have fetched far less. Since November, three Rothkos have failed to sell at auction.

A broker arranged the private sale of Mr. Merkin's collection, while Christie's auction house provided an independent appraisal, according to documents filed in court by Mr. Cuomo's office.

Mr. Merkin hung his Rothkos throughout his Park Avenue home, in the living room, dining room, hall and library, said people who have been shown his collection. The two Giacometti sculptures were on display in the hallway of the first floor, these people said.

Mr. Cuomo's office alleges Mr. Merkin lied to investors about how he invested their money....

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