Boston Globe, MA
Dec 2 2012
Kevorkian’s genocide painting to remain in Watertown museum, fits mission
It’s a question frequently asked by visitors to the intimate Watertown
museum: Do you have the Kevorkian paintings?
The Armenian Library and Museum of America has a rich collection of
illuminated manuscripts and a catalog of portrait photographs of some
of the 20th century’s leading figures, but the grisly paintings by Dr.
Death himself, assisted-suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian, continue
to be a draw.
After a year of legal wrangling with the Kevorkian estate, the museum
has managed to keep four of the 17 paintings by the late pathologist
it had been holding. Under a settlement that was announced in October,
the Kevorkian estate obtained the remainder of the paintings, and is
expected to offer the pieces for sale at art galleries, according to
The museum plans to display its Kevorkian paintings at some point, but
exactly when hasn’t been determined. At least one of them, `1915
Genocide 1945,’ will be shown in April, when the museum commemorates
the Armenian genocide, said Haig Der Manuelian, chairman of its board
That painting, which links the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the
Ottoman Turkish empire during and after World War I, and the 6 million
Jews killed by Nazi Germany three decades later, was the most
important piece for the museum to hold onto, and why the organization
was willing to engage in its first legal battle, Der Manuelian said.
`The reason why we were adamant about it was the one painting,’ he
said. It resonates with the museum’s goal of teaching the public about
the Armenian genocide, he added. `As far as I was concerned, a lot of
the paintings were of no relevance to our mission.’
The painting shows the bloodied head of a woman held by two arms. On
one sleeve is a Nazi uniform; the other is dressed in Ottoman Turkish
garb. Kevorkian, the son of Armenian genocide survivors, is said to
have used a mixture of human blood and paint in the piece.
The museum, at 65 Main St. in Watertown, will also keep `The Gourmet,’
about the meaning of war, `The Double Cross of Justice,’ about the
broken judicial system, and `Fa, la, la, la, la,’ which reflects on
the commercialization of Christmas. The messages of all these the
paintings are dark, and the images feature decapitated heads or
Mayer Morganroth, a Michigan-based attorney who represented the
estate, did not respond to a call requesting a comment on the
settlement. The estate has picked up its 13 paintings from the museum.
After the settlement, Morganroth told the Detroit News, `The
settlement recognizes the need for his art to be preserved as part of
Armenian culture, while returning artwork to his heir.’
Kevorkian died last year at the age of 83. He was a leading voice in
the right-to-die movement, and, according to his own estimate, had
helped 130 terminally ill people take their lives. He was convicted of
second-degree murder in 1999 for giving a lethal injection to a
52-year-old Michigan man with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Before going to prison to serve his 10- to 25-year term, Kevorkian
gave his paintings to the Watertown museum. He served eight years of
his sentence before he was released on parole. He visited the museum
in 2008 for an exhibition of the paintings.
After Kevorkian’s death, his estate claimed ownership of the
paintings, saying they were simply on loan to the museum for
exhibition and storage, and arranged to sell them at auction in New
York. The museum filed a civil lawsuit sued in federal court to block
the auction, saying the paintings had been donated to it by Kevorkian.
The estate has said the paintings could be worth as much as $3.5
The Watertown museum is satisfied with the settlement, Der Manuelian
said. It allows the museum to keep the paintings that are important to
its mission and avoids the legal costs of a protracted dispute, he
`The paintings are a small aspect of our collection,’ Der Manuelian said.