Artist Peter Max’s wife has died in a suspected suicide amid a family fight over her husband’s work and claims he was being exploited.
The body of Mary Max was found in her apartment by her husband’s nurse.
According to her lawyer, the 52-year-old left a lengthy voicemail with a friend in London just hours before she died.
“She wanted to leave a message with certain instructions what to do with matters important to her and she wanted to say her goodbyes to her husband, her brother and mother, and close friends,” John Markham said.
The news comes just weeks after The New York Times published a story detailing legal battles over the work of Max – a prolific creator of art now living with dementia.
His work has been exhibited at museums, been the basis of popular wall posters, promoted major sporting events, graced album covers and appeared on a US stamp.
However, in recent years some family members claimed in lawsuits and interviews that the 81-year-old was being mistreated and asked to sign his name to work created by a team of other artists.
Some of that art was sold on a cruise line and in galleries around the country, raking in millions of dollars.
Mary Max figured prominently in the disputes, telling a court that one of Max’s sons from a previous marriage, Adam Max, had improperly taken custody of him and kept him from other relatives.
Adam Max countered with his own allegations, accusing Mary Max of being abusive towards her husband – allegations she denied.