Monday, July 14, 2003

Ashland shedding works of art



By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Continuing the disposal of luxury items amassed under previous chief executives, Ashland Inc. said it has retained an auction firm to find buyers for its art collection.

Jim Vitak, a spokesman for the Covington-based oil and chemical company, downplayed the event. He said Friday that Ashland owns no "high-cost" pieces. He added that proceeds from the sale would not pad the company's earnings in a material way.

Yet Ashland has hired what Vitak described as an "international art auctioneer" to dispose of the more valuable pieces. He declined to identify the auction firm. Nor would he say when the auction is likely to take place or how the art - oil paintings and prints - will be sold.

Ashland's headquarters in the Towers of RiverCenter became a virtual gallery under former chairman and CEO Paul Chellgren, an art aficionado who began moonlighting in the publishing of contemporary prints with a London art dealer in 1995. Chellgren was forced to retire last year after an affair with a female employee came to light.

Chellgren's replacement, James O'Brien, has tried to steer Ashland down a more austere path. Already, he has ordered the sale of the company jet, closed its London office and cut back on charitable giving.

Among the artists whose works will be put up for sale are Wolf Kahn, a noted German-American painter, and Carol Summers, whose modernistic prints are on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.

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E-mail jmcnair@enquirer.com




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