The Fredericton-based Beaverbrook Art Gallery has won an appeal in a long-standing dispute over 85 works of art in its collection that were being claimed by Lord Beaverbrook's descendents.
The ruling, which was released overnight, brings to an end a five-year legal battle between the gallery and the U.K.-based Beaverbrook Foundation, which is controlled by descendants of the Canadian-born British politician and businessman, who died in 1964.
The appeal panel, comprised of retired judges Edward Bayda, Coulter Osborne and Thomas Braidwood, said that former Supreme Court of Canada justice Peter Cory, who ruled on the case in 2007, was reasonable and did not make any mistakes in his original judgment.
'l thought it took a long time, it's certainly a validation of the position that the board of governors took that these were gifts to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.' — Bernard Riordon, CEO, Beaverbrook Art Gallery
This appeal amounts to a final decision as there are no other avenues left for the Beaverbrook Foundation.
In its decision, the appeal panel didn't have to find that Cory was right on every point but they just had to rule that his judgment was reasonable and that he did not make any palpable errors.
Bernard Riordon, the chief executive officer of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, said he was pleased with the outcome despite the time it took to finally resolve the dispute.
"l thought it took a long time, it's certainly a validation of the position that the board of governors took that these were gifts to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery," Riordon said.
In a statement posted on its website, the Beaverbrook Foundation said it was disappointed with the decision but "relieved the process is over."
"While we stand by the arguments presented during the proceedings with respect to ownership of the works in dispute, we will respect and abide by the panel’s ruling," the statement said.
The foundation said it and the gallery had no choice but to push through the complicated legal process to determine who owned the paintings.
Gallery awarded 85 of 133 paintings
Cory's judgment awarded 85 out of the 133 paintings to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
Among the paintings that will be staying at the Fredericton art gallery are J.M.W. Turner's Fountain of Indolence, valued at $25 million, and Lucian Freud's Hotel Bedroom, valued at $5 million.
The foundation said the paintings were only on loan to the gallery and it wanted to take some of them back.
The gallery argued Lord Beaverbrook had given the works as gifts in the 1950s.
The appeal panel also upheld Cory's decision that the foundation pay $4.8 million in costs from the original hearing.
However, it didn't make a decision on awarding costs for the appeal. The judges instead asked for legal submissions by the lawyers involved in the cases on who should pay the cost of the appeal.
The decision comes days before the Beaverbrook Art Gallery celebrates the 50th anniversary of its opening.
Despite the resolution of the battle with the U.K. foundation, the art gallery's legal troubles are not totally over. A second dispute with the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation over another group of 78 paintings has been on hold pending the decision with the U.K. foundation.
Among the 78 works are paintings by Salvador Dali and Walter Sickert. However, the Fredericton gallery's signature painting, Dali's Santiago El Grande, is not involved in the disagreement.