Dr. Death's controversies won't die.
Jack Kevorkian, the pathologist at the center of a legal storm for assisting terminally ill patients with committing suicide, passed away in June. But now, a battle is raging over ownership of the doctor's art.
A Massachusetts museum balked at handing over 17 paintings by the figurehead of the right-to-die movement that are scheduled to be auctioned on Oct. 28 to raise money for a children's cancer charity.
The Armenian Library and Museum of America housed the contested oil works since Kevorkian's 1999 conviction for second-degree murder. Kevorkian's attorney told The Huffington Post that the paintings were loaned to the museum for safekeeping and that a signed agreement with the curator stipulated the artworks would be returned upon request.
"The only reason they got [the paintings] was because Jack trusted them," said Mayer Morganroth in Michigan. "Now when they realize there might be some value in them, they try to hold onto them. It's outrageous."
Kevorkian's Art: (Story Continues Below)
Officials of the museum, which exhibited the paintings in two shows since 1999, argue that the curator wasn't authorized to ink the agreement. They also claim that Kevorkian and his sister had publicly declared he donated the pieces to the institution.
"[Armenian Library and Museum of America] contends that the paintings were donated to ALMA by Dr. Kevorkian, are owned by ALMA, are part of its permanent collection and should remain as part of its permanent collection," attorney Harold Potter said in a statement.
Morganorth says the library is trying to profit from Kevorkian's fame.
"I can't believe the greed. Those paintings are worth a great deal of money," Morganroth said. "I am very, very embarrassed by their behavior."
The 17 paintings are valued at $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
A countersuit will be filed later this week in federal court, Morganroth said.
The art was stored in the museum along with other Kevorkian memorabilia, like the infamous Thanotron, Kevorkian's homemade suicide machine, while he served seven years for his role in the videotaped death of a 52-year-old man with Lou Gehrig's disease.
Thieves previously stole other paintings from Kevorkian, according to Morganroth, and he feared losing his creations again. Kevorkian shared them with the museum, because his parents were Armenian immigrants.
While there's a fight for the art, there was no problem retrieving the Thanatron just a few weeks ago, Morganroth said.
The auction, which will feature about eight other paintings and more than 100 of Kevorkian's personal belongings, such as his favorite blue sweater and flute, will take place as scheduled at the New York Institute of Technology, Morganroth said. Proceeds will get split between to Kids Kicking Cancer and Kevorkian's niece. However, Potter says the museum won't surrender the contested paintings until a settlement is reached.
Kevorkian's brightly colored paintings included images of Santa Claus stepping on a baby's throat, a trio of Easter bunnies pawing at Jesus Christ's lifeless heads and a dying man clawing at the walls as he descends into a bottomless darkness.
"This is not art for the sake of being pretty," said Steve Lee Jones, who produced a documentary and an HBO film about Kevorkian. "These are very powerful statements about politics."