NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court ." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3. SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION DOCKET NO. A-0529-20 IN THE MATTER OF THE BIERSTADT PAINTINGS CHARITABLE TRUST, DATED OCTOBER 6, 1919 BETWEEN DR. JONATHAN ACKERMAN COLES, GRANTOR, AND THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, TRUSTEE. Submitted June 7, 2021 – Decided July 20, 2021 Before Judges Currier and Gooden Brown. On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Union County, Docket No. C-000072-20. Rainone Coughlin Minchello, LLC, attorneys for appellant City of Plainfield (David L. Minchello and Brian P. Trelease, on the briefs). Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, PC, attorneys for respondent Scotch Plains Baptist Church (Richard M. Cohen, on the brief). PER CURIAM In 1919, J. Ackerman Coles, a well-known doctor, art collector and philanthropist, gifted inter vivos two paintings to the City of Plainfield (City). The paintings by Albert Bierstadt are held in a charitable trust by the City and have been displayed in the City's library and municipal building. The City contends that one of the paintings – "The Landing of Columbus" – depicts racial themes and undertones. Therefore, the City instituted this lawsuit, requesting a modification of the trust so it can sell the paintings. The trial court found the paintings were donated for their historical and artistic value in memory of Coles' father. And there was no indication that Coles intended for the trustee to sell the works. Therefore, the court denied the City's application. We affirm. As stated, Coles offered the two eight-by-twelve-foot masterpiece paintings to the City in a charitable trust with the City acting as trustee. The second painting – a landscape – is entitled "Autumn in the Sierras." The City does not contend that work is controversial. Coles offered the paintings in memory of his father, Dr. Abraham Coles, who was born in Scotch Plains and was a teacher in Plainfield before he became a physician and surgeon. In the letter to the City offering the gift, Coles described Bierstadt as a "world renowned artist" and referenced his works then A-0529-20 2 displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. In discussing the "Columbus" painting and a companion painting to the "Sierras" work, Coles stated that "[f]ew paintings, if any, of modern date equal in beauty, merit and historic value . . . ." On the same day, the Common Council of Plainfield issued a resolution on behalf of the people of the City, accepting the paintings and thanking Coles "for his very generous and thoughtful gift . . . ." The following day, a newspaper article reported on the donation, noting the paintings' value of $70,000. The article stated that Councilman Charles S. Sminck "declared [the paintings] …

Original document

Add comment


Recent Posts

Recent Comments