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Battle rages over Kevorkian-created artwork

The sole heir of Dr. Jack Kevorkian wants artwork created by the assisted-suicide advocate and other of his items back, but she's getting a fight from the museum that holds them. The Armenian Library and Museum of America says Kevorkian donated the goods. It's gone to court in a bid to keep them. Estate planning attorneys in New Jersey and elsewhere are watching to see how it plays out.

Reportedly at issue are 17 paintings, some original musical compositions, a sweater and a hat. According to his attorney, Kevorkian, of Armenian descent, loaned the works to the museum back in 1999. He says the deal was arranged to protect the items while Kevorkian was in prison serving time for murder for a 1998 assisted suicide case.

Kevorkian died in June at the age of 83. He left all his property to his niece in Michigan. Now, the estate wants to sell off the paintings at an auction next week in New York City. A spokesman for the estate estimates they are worth as much as $3.5 million.

Many of the paintings are disturbing images of death and dying. One of them, featuring a severed head dripping blood, was painted using a pint of Kevorkian's own blood. The art has been on display at the museum for nearly 12 years.

In making its pitch recently to keep the artwork, the museum told the court that the curator who took the loan deal didn't have the authority to sign an agreement that guaranteed the items would be returned. As such, the organization said, the estate has no right to them now.

Kevorkian's attorney calls the argument "ridiculous." He says if the curator didn't have the authority to enter the agreement, then he would be guilty of fraud, voiding the agreement in any event.

Source: AP, Boston Globe, "Kevorkian's estate, Mass. museum feud over artwork," Rodrique Ngowi, Oct. 19, 2011

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