Sean Parker drops $6M for Rubens masterpiece — but now seller wants it back

It’s a case of the grapes of wrath.

Tech billionaire Sean Parker ponied up nearly $6 million for a Peter Paul Rubens painting called “A Satyr holding a Basket of Grapes and Quinces with a Nymph,” but the San Diego seller wants it back.

Parker, Facebook’s first president, won’t be “friending” Debra L. Turner anytime soon after the SoCal resident consigned the masterpiece to Christie’s auction house in Manhattan two years ago and then had a change of heart, court documents show.

Christie’s staged the April 2018 auction and Parker, whose net worth is $2.7 billion, won the bid on behalf of his non-profit foundation, court papers state. Turner, 62, claimed she had withdrawn the painting from auction before its sale, “even though the seller’s contract did not permit her to do so unilaterally,” court papers state.

Said a Christie’s spokesman: “A consignor sought to cancel a completed auction sale and following repeated attempts to settle the matter amicably, the matter was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled that Christie’s complied with its contractual obligations and that the successful bidder had lawfully acquired the painting.”

Christie’s filed a petition in Manhattan Federal Court April 20 to affirm an arbitrator’s ruling that the foundation get the art piece — which remains in Christie’s possession — and Turner the proceeds.

Turner, who represented herself in the dispute, could not be reached for comment.

Sean ParkerSean ParkerGilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

The San Francisco-based Parker Foundation was launched in June 2015 through a $600 million gift by the Internet entrepreneur and his wife, Alexandra, according to its website. The foundation “aggressively pursues large-scale systemic change in four focus areas: Life Sciences, Global Public Health, Civic Engagement and the Arts,” according to its website.

In a letter to the court Friday, the foundation noted it “promptly paid in full” for the painting on May 2, 2018, and had no knowledge that Turner “attempted to withdraw it from the auction.”

The foundation aims to “take possession of the painting it purchased in good faith more than two years ago and put it to charitable use,” according to the new court filing.

Additional reporting by Melissa Klein


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