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Grand Jury Investigates Bronze Castings

July 1, 1986

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ The attorney general’s office has seized plaster molds used to make art works that were being offered for sale as those of the late Georgia O’Keeffe, a foundry owner says.

Dell Weston, owner of Weston’s Art Bronze Casting, said the molds were provided to him by Herta Wittgenstein to make bronze castings. Ms. Wittgenstein was labeling the reproductions as a limited edition of five, but Weston said he cast more than five copies of each statue.

Juan Hamilton, executor of O’Keeffe’s estate, Weston and four other people said the attorney general’s office asked for their testimony before a Santa Fe County grand jury concerning the reproductions and Ms. Wittgenstein.

Ms. Wittgenstein denied any of the works she was selling were not authentic. She declined further comment.

Stephen Westheimer, deputy state attorney general, said today, ″It is our policy to neither confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.″

Eric Treisman, a Santa Fe attorney, said he testified Ms. Wittgenstein offered to sell him two sculptures she contended were by Ms. O’Keeffe for $12,000 to $15,000 each.

Treisman said Ms. Wittgenstein told him the sculptures, originally done in 1929 or 1932, were part of a limited edition whose recasting Ms. O’Keeffe had supervised at a Princeton, N.J., foundry in honor of her 90th birthday.

Ms. O’Keeffe died in Santa Fe on March 6 at age 98.

Steven Fox, a Santa Fe art merchant, said he told the grand jury Ms. Wittgenstein offered to sell him the same or similar sculptures, saying they were part of an edition cast by Ms. O’Keeffe in Princeton.

Weston said he testified that Ms. Wittgenstein hired him last year to make about 10 bronze copies of each statue from plaster molds she provided.

He said she paid him a few hundred dollars per statue.

Weston said Ms. Wittgenstein did not tell him the works were by O’Keeffe, but were the works of some artist whose name he did not remember.

Hamilton said he knew the whereabouts of each of the 20 sculptures cast in Princeton, said a grand jury witness who declined to be identified.

Herk van Tongeren, director of the Johnson Foundry in Princeton, said the bronzes being sold by Ms. Wittgenstein lacked the white patina of the originals whose casting he supervised.