Russian oligarch and collector Dmitry Rybolovlev and his former art dealer Yves Bouvier have been entrenched in a years-long legal battle that spans courts in the United States, Monaco, and France. Given a recent court ruling, it seems unlikely that the saga will come to a definitive end anytime soon.
A Geneva court overturned a previous dismissal of Rybolovlev’s complaints against Bouvier for gang fraud and money laundering on July 26, the Art Newspaper reports.
The legal saga, now often referred to as the Bouvier Affair, began in 2015, when Rybolovlev bought two allegedly stolen paintings by Picasso in a deal mediated by Bouvier. Later that year, Rybolovlev returned the paintings to the Picasso family.
The deal instigated a suit in which Rybolovlev claimed that Bouvier had scammed Rybolovlev out of $1 billion over the years after selling him 39 works at a highly inflated price. Included in the 39 works that Rybolovlev bought through Bouvier were Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci, which was sold to Rybolovlev for $83 million—a 53.62 percent markup documents, released by Sotheby’s revealed. The painting is now in the hands of Saudi Arabia, which bought the work for $450 million.
In September 2021, a Geneva prosecutor dismissed Rybolovlev’s complaints on account that his suit against Bouvier in Monaco had been annulled in 2020. After Rybolovlev asked for an appeal, the Geneva courts reversed their decision, finding that, “at this stage, the thesis put forward by the plaintiff is plausible,” the appeal reportedly said.
Rybolovlev has previously ranked on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list. His collection also includes works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Mark Rothko.