Robilant + Voena served papers alleging ‘racist, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynistic’ language

Robilant + Voena, London. Courtesy the gallery

The eponymous dealers behind gallery Robilant + Voena received an unwelcome visit to their booth at the TEFAF art fair in New York last month. Lawyers representing former curatorial employee Virginia Brilliant served them papers alleging racist, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynistic comments, sexual discrimination and bullying behaviour. Brilliant also says the gallery reneged on a promise to pay for her cancer treatment.

A copy of the lawsuit was first obtained by the Daily Beast. A spokesperson for Robilant+Voena turned down a request for comment from ArtReview.

Lawyers for Brilliant say Marco Voena told her ‘I don’t like Black people. They are disgusting’. He also allegedly used homophobic slurs to describe Robilant’s uncle, Robilant’s son and Robilant himself. Brilliant says Voena showed her pictures of a woman alleged to be his mistress dressed only in her underwear.

Edmondo di Robilant is alleged to have called Brilliant ‘a stupid fucking cunt’. Brilliant worked for nine years in the curatorial department at the Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, moving in 2017 to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as curator-in-charge of European paintings. She holds a Ph.D. and MA from The Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London.

The art historian says Robilant referred to a colleague with antisemitic language and used antisemitic tropes. Brilliant claims her former boss ‘regularly and routinely used phrases such as… ‘disgusting Jews’’ and once noted that a gallery contact’s wife was Jewish ‘so all those pretty blond children are just more fucking Jews’, going on to say ‘they’re just greedy fucking Jews pretending to be as English as the Queen’.

Robilant is also alleged to have ‘encouraged [Brilliant] to have sexual relations with a colleague to secure a consignment’. The lawsuit claims that Robilant’s wife sent Brilliant unsolicited and illegally prescribed weight loss pills a few weeks prior to an art fair. Brilliant was undergoing cancer treatment at the time.

Brilliant is suing both the business, which specialises in European Old Masters and 20th century Italian and American art, with spaces in London, Milan, Paris, and New York, and Robilant and Voena personally, on seven separate counts. The plaintiff says she is owed $57,500 for an unpaid commission relating to the sale of an Orsola Caccia painting, back pay of $580,000, and the $200,000 to cover the medical bills. On top of this the suit demands at least $1 million for the alleged hostile workplace, $1 million or more for sexual harassment and discrimination, plus legal costs.

Established in 2004, the gallery has been at some of the most significant private sales of the last few decades, including handling the purchase of a £3.6 million self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi to the National Gallery in London in 2017 and a work by Jean-Léon Gérôme acquired by the Frick Collection in New York in 2018.

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