New York Post
Artwork of late Moroccan painter the center of lawsuit
Ahmed Yacoubi – He died in relative obscurity in Manhattan, but the works of a Moroccan painter, who once hobnobbed with the likes of fabled Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and socialite Peggy Guggenheim, are now the subject of a fierce court battle since they greatly increased in value when his native government posthumously dubbed him a cultural ambassador. Ahmed Yacoubi, born to a family of healers, became a jet-setting artist in the 1950s after meeting Guggenheim, who purchased his work for her private collection. The thrice-divorced Yacoubi settled above a theater on the Lower East Side in 1976, where he lived with artist Carol Cannon until shortly before he died in 1985 of lung cancer. He left no will. Just last year, the painter’s son and sole heir, Soufian Yacoubi, a police chief in Fez, sued Cannon for $400,000 in artwork, which he claims she has been selling online. “She knew he had a son. She didn’t have any right,” to sell the pieces, said Larsen Krim, the Manhattan-based executor of the estate who represents Soufian in the United States. Cannon counters in court papers that she is responsible for the late artist’s new posthumous fame. Krim acknowledged in an interview that Cannon was the one who wrote to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI — a recognized patron of the arts — and gave him one of Ahmed Yacoubi’s largest paintings. After the gesture, the king had Yacoubi’s body exhumed from a New Jersey cemetery in 2009 and returned to his native country, where he was given a state funeral. While Krim and Soufian Yacoubi accuse Cannon of swiping Ahmed Yacoubi’s trove of works after he died, she claims she later purchased the collection from the estate of his daughter, who died in London in 2003. “I never took a single thing,” said Cannon. In court papers she calls Soufian “the alleged son of the artist” and notes that he surfaced only after the state funeral. Krim believes Cannon has roughly 50 pieces worth as much as $50,000 each. Cannon declined to comment on the collection, saying only that her goal is to preserve the works for a retrospective. She admitted to having sold a few smaller sketches to pay for climate-controlled storage and a Web site dedicated to the artist’s legacy. Today, Yacoubi’s works hang in MoMA and La Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris.