Who framed Salvador Dali? Lawyer Greg Brodsky was better known for his vigorous defences than his extensive art collection, which is now up for sale
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/10/2022 (236 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Greg Brodsky’s dogged determination, hours upon hours poring over legal texts to find the best way to defend his clients, helped make him one of Canada’s top criminal lawyers.
The Greg Brodsky Collection
Mayberry Fine Art, 212 McDermot Ave., and mayberryfineart.com
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
To Nov. 8
Many artists have similar dedication, searching deep within themselves to bring new creativity to their work and the court of public opinion.
That could be one reason Brodsky, who died Feb. 10 at age 81, collected so many works of art from such a diverse group of artists, including Indigenous painters such as Norval Morrisseau and Spanish surrealist superstar Salvador Dali.
Some of Brodsky’s collection of 60 or so works is on display as part of an estate sale held by Mayberry Fine Art at its gallery at 212 McDermot Ave., and can be viewed in its entirety online at mayberryfineart.com.
“I never really knew he was an art enthusiast, although (when) you see pictures of him sitting in his office, there would be art on the walls and Indigenous sculptures and so on sitting around,” says Bill Mayberry, an art dealer and president of the business, which helps families appraise and sell artworks owned by deceased relatives.
Brodsky’s connection with Morrisseau, an Anishinaabe artist from northwestern Ontario who was one of the “Indian Group of Seven,” likely goes beyond mere appreciation for his work.
While the lawyer gained notoriety for defending Dr. Henry Morgenthaler, the physician and abortion-rights advocate, and Thomas Sophonow, who was found wrongfully convicted of murder, he also represented Morrisseau as a client.
”I know for a fact he did encounter some of the Indigenous artists. Some of the time he was representing people, like Norval Morrisseau, who got into (legal) trouble quite frequently in the late ’60s and ‘70,” Mayberry says.
“I would almost say for certain (Morrisseau) bartered paintings for legal advice and legal help… I’ve heard countless stories of Morrisseau encounters with people, where they give him a ride and the next day he would show up and give them a painting.”
Mayberry has been buying and selling art for more than 50 years and knew Morrisseau prior to the artist’s death in 2007.
Morrisseau was the originator of the Woodland school of contemporary art in the early 1960s and at first received criticism from Indigenous people for using traditional stories as the foundation of his paintings.
As he grew in fame — in 2006, Morrisseau was the first Indigenous artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada — so did the value of his paintings. Mayberry says five Morrisseau paintings in Brodsky’s collection sold quickly; one untitled work that was sold remains on display until the sale closes.
About 15 paintings by Josh Kakegamic, another Woodland artist and Morrisseau’s brother-in-law, are also part of the Brodsky estate sale, as are several sculptures by Inuit artists.
One of them is a bone carving titled Flying Shaman by Northwest Territories sculptor David Ruben, who in March received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
The Dali work, a colour etching with aquatint on paper titled Don Quichotte, is from 1964 and is priced at $2,700.
Brodsky also collected works by Winnipeg artists, including an untitled acrylic by abstract painter Wanda Koop, which Mayberry says goes back to the early part of her career, when she painted under the name Wanda Condon.
Condon is written on the back of the canvas’s frame, dating the painting to the early 1980s or sooner.
“Who was buying Wanda Condons at that time and there, Greg Brodsky ends up with one of them,” Mayberry says.
Mayberry believes Brodsky’s eclectic collection, in which pieces range in price from $200 to $6,000 and up, should draw art enthusiasts but can also give friends and former colleagues another chance to reminisce and learn about another aspect of the lawyer’s life.
“One lawyer said to me, ‘I know a hundred lawyers who would buy a piece just to have something, a connection to Greg, because he was so highly thought of in the law profession,’” Mayberry says.
He says each artwork’s history, including that they were part of Brodsky’s art collection, will be included with the piece and will be added to the company’s database so future generations will be able to find out how the art was obtained.
He advises art owners to write down as much information they know about their pieces, especially how they are obtained, so that knowledge can be passed on to the next owner.
“Art outlives us all,” he says. “It goes on to have another life of its own and it’s good that its story can stay with it.”
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Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.