Wendy Reves's Sole Heir Files Federal Suit to Retrieve Mother's Art Collection (Left to DMA) and Money (Given to UT Southwestern)

Categories: Arts
WendyReves.jpg
Dallas Museum of Art
Portrait of Mrs. Emery Reves by Graham Sutherland, 1978
A federal lawsuit filed in Dallas on Friday has all the makings of a Vanity Fair feature story, down to the famous names who make cameo appearances -- among them, President Franklin Roosevelt, Coco Chanel and Winston Churchill. But far more notable is what's at stake: a signature collection of art (consisting of more than 1,400 works, including some by Monet, Rodin, van Gogh and Cézanne) at the Dallas Museum of Art and a fortune donated to UT Southwestern.

The suit was filed on Friday by Arnold Leon Schroeder Jr. -- the only son of Marshall, Texas's Wyn-Nelle Russell, who would achieve international renown as Wendy Russell Reves. As in: The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art. Her death in March 2007 was notable enough to merit mentions from The New York Times to this estimable account in the U.K. Telegraph.

Schroeder -- who is suing the DMA and several of its board members, former UT Southwestern president Kern Wildenthal and Wendy's attorney Edward Copley -- is Reves's son from her first marriage to Al Schroeder, a West Point grad she met when he was stationed in San Antonio in the early 1930s. Their marriage wouldn't last: Reves began her career as a world-famous magazine model in'39, married a second time (to musician Paul Baron) in 1940, then took up with writer, publisher and Emery Reves in 1948.

The two were married 16 years later in Switzerland, and they would eventually move into Coco Chanel's old villa in France -- La Pausa, whole rooms of which were recreated in the DMA in the mid-1980s to make room for the Reves Collection. But Schroeder -- through his attorney, former WFAA-Channel 8 reporter Valeri Williams -- alleges that "during his lifetime, with the assistance of prominent attorneys, Emery set up an elaborate web of corporate entities to hold his various assets, primarily to avoid substantial taxation under applicable French law." Among those assets, claims Reves's sole heir: the art collection and her fortune.

In the suit, which follows below and spells out an alphabet soup's worth of foundations and alleged tax-dodging fronts, Schroeder alleges that after Emery's death in 1981, three DMA board members went to France and asked Wendy to donate their collection, said to be worth more than $400 million.
Wendy, by now a lonely widow and chronic alcoholic, was persuaded by their Texas charm and flattery to disregard Emery's intentions for the Collection and donated it instead to the DMA. ... Emery had wished for Villa La Pausa to be converted to a museum to display the Collection publicly in France within its natural surroundings. Instead, the DMA Members convinced Wendy that Emery's spirit would be as appeased if the DMA built a replica of several of the rooms of Villa La Pausa within the museum in which the Collection would be displayed, which is in fact what the DMA ultimately did. The DMA Members also promised to find a way around France's reserved heirship rule and the restrictions set forth in BAF's By-Laws in order to facilitate the surreptitious transfer of the Collection.
The suit also alleges that Dr. Kern Wildenthal, during his tenure as president of UT Southwestern Medical Center, pressed Wendy to leave "several millions of dollars" to the hospital:
After an afternoon of plying Wendy (an alcoholic) with abundant champagne and other drinks, Wildenthal abrubtly confronted Wendy and presented a Will that had been drafted by, or at, Copley's direction. This Will appointed Wildenthal as sole Exectuor of Wendy's Estate and purported to direct that the majority of her Estate devolve to a foundation, the Wendy and Emery Reves Charitable Foundation ("WERCF"). However, WERCF would not be created until Wendy died, and it would be totally controlled by Wildenthal and Copley and their circle.
Schroeder wants the DMA and UT Southwestern "disgorged of their ill-gotten gains," among other things. No doubt the parties have yet to be served. But expect a follow-up, should any or all want to comment on the Schroeder's suit.ARNOLD LEON SCHROEDER, JR. Suit
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22 comments
Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

First,let us understand that Wendy Reves was alive and had control of all assests,so the son had no leverage at the time of the DMA obtaining,by whatever methd, of $400 million dollars of art.As in the United States,France has no requisite law stating the son of the Wendy Reves had to be the the blood relative of her husband.Emory Reves had no other relatives but his spouse he wanted to leave the estate.If one marries a wealthy person and they die without a prenuptial agreement pressed on in a will,then you can be "dubious" of the claim,but the claim would also be valid in Dallas County. As to Wildenthal, he absolutely was in France at the time of Wendy Reves' death,six months after he had her sign a new will he just happened to have brought with him.Remember,this is not the first time Wildenthal has been challenged in court over similar circumstances.If one is to be dubious, then it is the lack of the DMA providing the legal documents to the public proving it has a legal claim and why Wendy Reves had a new will 6 months before she passed away and at a time when French physicians had ruled she had dimentia for at least two years at the time Wildenthal had her sign the will. Let's see a signature comparison for Reves' signature on the last will and the previous will and all of the changes.You have to wonder why Reves would give everything to Wildenthal.I hope the Frech authorities inspect her villa to determine what is missing from it's inventory.Wildenthal has an inventory list,as he had a famous auction company provide a list and values.What a guy.

Just the facts, ma'am
Just the facts, ma'am

Kind of wild that the estate has not been distributed after all this time. Did the lion share of the 1,400 Art pieces go to the museum a long time ago or after her death? If the art is property of the museum, doesn't that mean it is all that wealth is now property of the citizens of Dallas? The Dallas gang has some 'splainin to do regarding their own nefarious actions if they personally benefited or did anything fraudulent or illegal.

Reves son (according to the lawsuit) is a resident of California and not France or Texas. One has to wonder about his relationship with his mother while she was alive - did he even visit his mother in France? Did he ever care for her - especially since the lawsuit says that she was a lonely alcoholic?

The only thing we can all know for certain is death and taxes and from all the legal drama it is clear that the French especially get all pissy when all those death taxes leave the county and have not been deposited directly into their Treasury. Odds are that this story makes the big screen.

urban cowboy
urban cowboy

ok....let me see if I got this straight...Wendy Reves who is a huge Philanthropist and has donated generously to Dallas, public organizations and hospitals before, donates her late husbands $400 million art collection to the DMA in 1989......she died in 2007.......she never asked for it back or said she was swindled infact she donated more to the arts district in Dallas..Her only son who only received $500,000 upon her death is now suing to get the $400 million art collection PLUS damages...and is wanting the 3 million that was left to UNT South Western......UMM........OK.... spoiled brat feels cheated outta his inheritance .....NEXT

Diduknow
Diduknow

UT Southwestern is not named as a defendant in this civil lawsuit. UT Southwestern has received no funds from the Reves estate or from Emery Reves’ foundations, directly or indirectly through the Southwestern Medical Foundation, and has received one personal gift of $6,000 in 1993 from Mrs. Reves.

Mstreeter
Mstreeter

The folks at the DMA courted Wendy Reves for years to get her collection. So did a lot of other museums here and in Europe. She dictated the manner in which the pieces would be displayed in a reproduction of her and Emery's villa. Wendy was the one who saw to the installation. She gave it freely to the DMA with her eyes wide open and with all kinds of stipulations.

RS1963
RS1963

It would be interesting to have more knowledge about the France side of this equation. Have they been in an uproar about the way everything was handled? Sounds as if some rules/laws were broken/stretched to get some of the artwork out of France.

I always disliked the way the rooms were set up at the DMA in that you couldn't get close enough to SEE most of the artwork. About the only feeling you got was "Wow! These people sat around and ate dinner with a lot of expensive artwork around them!", but you couldn't see much of the artwork yourself.

need to know...
need to know...

I have read several story of this issue and I believe he should sue the hell out of them form takning advantage of her, the fact that Widlenthal was at the house at the time of her death going through her stuff and did not call the police when they found him at her house snooping of documents which he had on hand, it is time to put the put this lawsuit before everyone so they can know that Dr. Wildenthal is a BIG Golddigger and everyine knows it who has donated bug bucks to UT. I am so glad I am not on the VIP list.

Montemalone
Montemalone

I can't wait for the Lifetime movie event.

Doug
Doug

I don't recall the exact timeline...but my recollection is that the deal got done with DMA years ago...well before her death in 2007...because I remember an article about what a diva she was and how the DMA had to roll out the red carpet whenever she came back to Dallas (once a year or so?). My point is...he's JUST NOW filing a law suit? What rock has he been living under?

Harvey
Harvey

We need to keep this story in mind when we pause in the check out line when someone uses a Lonestar card to pay for groceries.

This defines "entitlement". The Lonestar card doesn't.

John_McKee
John_McKee

I don't know that someone donating an art collection to a public museum and a substantial amount of money to a major public medical research institution seems that nefarious and outside of reasonable and common practice.

Perhaps if he had been the child of both of them I would see things differently but it appears the fortune was made by her third husband so I am a bit dubious of his claim to it.

Doug
Doug

Imagine the scene when the will was read..."That BITCH left me only $500,000!!!!!!" (sound of things being thrown around the room...)

Smagnoliax
Smagnoliax

to "need to know" -- I've read lots of stories about Wendy but nothing about Widlenthal being there when she died -- do you have a source for this info?

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

The ROOM at the DMA was TACKY in the great tradition of all things Dallas.

Nice stuff but had a what is this doing here feel.

Doug
Doug

OK, assuming that's true...there's a fortune there for the taking and he waits until the last minute to file a suit?

urban cowboy
urban cowboy

Wendy Reeves stated to museum officials that her husband wanted their villa in France to become a public museum leaving the art where it was, a deal was made where the DMA would recreated the rooms of the villa to appease her...You think the rooms are tacky?? Tough (&^*(^ cause the only was that art was going to be open to the public was to display just the way it is now.....

Emmy
Emmy

As a condition of her gift Wendy Reeves required the collection to be displayed that way.

Montemalone
Montemalone

"Nice stuff but had a what is this doing here feel."

Sums up Dallas in a sentence. Congratulations, OTC.Mind if I put that on T-Shirt? (Prada, of course)

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

As a matter of fact I think we can go with Mr & Mrs Reeves were acting like pretentious collectors of Do Dads & nick knacks and quite the bully's for insisting that such a Hideous display of their dinner ware was forced upon the art loving citizens of Dallas.In exchange for sharing the other wonderful collection of art.

Money can buy you art but Class and Taste are a different matter

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

The Instillation (Artsy word ) Was like viewing "THAT DINING ROOM" at the Grandparents that kids Never went into !Except a lot more color .And Velvet ropes.

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