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Medici appeals mural ownership decision

Judge ruled artwork belongs to Butler

WARREN — The lawyer for the Medici Museum of Art in Howland has filed an appeal to a Trumbull County judge’s decision on the ownership of the museum’s showcase piece of art.

Warren attorney Michael D. Rossi filed the notice of appeal July 17 with the 11th District Court of Appeals. No dates have been scheduled by the court for hearing the case.

Attorneys for both sides have submitted arguments on whether the appeals court will stay Common Pleas Judge Andrew D. Logan’s order for removal of the Pierre Soulages ceramic tile mural that fills the massive front window of the Medici Museum, at 9350 E. Market St.

Logan, in his June 25 decision, ruled the Soulages artwork is the property of the Butler Institute of American Art and had given the parties 30 days to remove the artwork from the Medici gallery.

Foundation Medici had sued the Butler claiming ownership of the Soulages mural that was appraised at $650,000 when it was acquired in 2010. The Howland museum was the home of the Butler’s Trumbull Branch until last summer, when Foundation Medici notified the Youngstown-based museum it was severing its agreement and going to operate the building as a stand-alone gallery.

Foundation Medici provided land and most of the financing to open the museum in 1996. The Butler, which assisted Medici in building an annex to house the Soulages mural, moved its property out last November. The Soulages mural is the lone item involved in an ownership dispute.

At issue in the lawsuit was whether the mural is a permanent fixture and if the soliciting for donations to build a $300,000 annex established a charitable trust. Logan ruled the Medici did not meet the legal requirements on both counts.

“At the end of the day, once the Soulages is removed, Medici will still be able to display art in the annexed building on both the surrounding walls and the metal framework itself, should it so desire,” Logan wrote in his decision. “(T)he evidence is indisputed that the deconstruction of the Soulages mural can be accomplished with minimal effect on the Medici building.”

Even if the Butler had solicited money from Trumbull County donors, Logan said, there was no agreement requiring the Soulages artwork to remain in Trumbull County.

Attempts to contact Rossi and Butler attorney Thomas Wilson of Youngstown for comments were unsuccessful on Monday.

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