Hopper's estranged wife pulls star's art from sale

Rob Sharp,Arts Correspondent
Wednesday 12 January 2011 01:00 GMT

Renowned for his eccentric performances and turbulent life off-camera, even in death Dennis Hopper remains close to controversy.

The actor's estranged wife, Victoria Duffy Hopper, from whom he began divorce proceedings shortly before his death eight months ago, has succeeded in halting the sale of a significant portion of the actor's art collection after lodging court papers in California.

The disputed works, which were supposed to be auctioned today at Christie's in New York, include pieces by the American artists Bruce Conner and Sam Francis and the British portrait painter Jonathan Yeo. Their combined value is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"As a result of a title claim brought by Dennis Hopper's estranged wife, Christie's must withdraw 32 items from the sale until such time as the title claim is resolved," said a spokeswoman for the auction house last night.

The Los Angeles Superior Court has granted Mrs Duffy Hopper an order against the Dennis Hopper Trust to halt the sale of the items from Hopper's collection, according to court documents.

"The basis for the temporary restraining order was that the co-trustees were about to irreparably injure the petitioner [Mrs Duffy Hopper] by selling irreplaceable personal property owned by the petitioner which had sentimental and emotional value," the court papers say.

The move is the latest instalment in the ongoing row between Mrs Duffy Hopper, the late actor and his estate. In January 2010, Hopper filed for divorce from Mrs Duffy Hopper, his fifth wife, citing her "outrageous conduct", stating she was "inhuman" and "insane". The following month he was granted a restraining order against her.

Despite this, Mrs Duffy Hopper reportedly refused to move out of the family home. Hopper also accused her of absconding with elements of his art collection worth $1.5m (£960,000). In April last year, a court ruled that Mrs Duffy Hopper could continue living on the pair's property and that Hopper must pay Mrs Duffy Hopper continuing child support. Hopper died in May.

Legal wranglings continue to envelop the former couple's estate. The estate's trustees are his eldest daughter, Marin, one of his friends, Alexander C Hitz, and his business manager, Wayne Mejia. The beneficiaries of the trust are Hopper's four children, with his youngest daughter Galen, 7, to be the recipient of the majority of any funds raised at auction.

The rest of the sale of 200 Hopper artworks is continuing as planned.

Yesterday, Andy Warhol's Mao, the most famous of the lots, was sold for $302,500 (£193,833), more than 10 times its estimated sale price.

The Warhol work is adorned with two bullet holes, the result of a wild night when Hopper shot at it. The actor later showed the holes to his friend Warhol, and the pair agreed to label the work a collaboration, with Warhol labelling the holes "warning shot" and "bullet hole".

The auction is taking place over two days and is expected to finish at 5pm London time today.

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