SC Johnson has filed a suit against Southeby's auction house to stop the sale of a Frank Lloyd Wright designed desk and chair that they believe was stolen from the company.
While S.C. Johnson does on limited occasions, as per the complaint, loan furniture and objects designed by Wright to museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its policy is not to otherwise transfer, sell, loan, or gift, them. “Accordingly,” reads the complaint, “the removal of the Desk and Chair from the Administration Building was not authorized.”
The Sotheby’s catalogue lists the provenance of the desk as having been acquired from S.C. Johnson by “chemist Elerslie E. Luther, Berkeley, CA circa 1950,” and thereby transferred by descent until it reached the present owner who acquired it from Jeffrey V. Luther at an unspecified time after 1990. But there is no evidence in the S.C. Johnson records of any connection between the company and Elerslie Luther.
Likewise, the catalogue lists the chair as having been gifted by Samuel C. Johnson to a private collector in 1972, sold in 2002 at Butterfields in Los Angeles, and thereafter acquired by the current owner. The “gift” is allegedly inconsistent with records of S.C. Johnson.
The suit was filed after the auction house -- in violation of what it claims is its policy -- refused to stop the auction.