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Academy sues Joseph Wright’s family over Oscar statuette auction

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The family of art director Joseph Wright has been sued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the sale of his Oscar for 1942’s My Gal Sal.

Joseph Wright died in 1985 and his heirs sold his statuette for $79,200 to unknown buyers via Briarbrook Auctions last month.

However, the Academy brought in rules in 1951 giving it the first right to buy any award put up for sale for $1.

The Academy wants damages of more than $79,200 as well as punitive damages.

Joseph Wright’s heirs have been sued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the sale of his Oscar for 1942's My Gal Sal

Joseph Wright’s heirs have been sued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over the sale of his Oscar for 1942’s My Gal Sal

The legal case put forward by the Academy this week states the first-right purchase also applies to heirs of Oscar winners.

The Academy’s regulations also require winners to sign a contract of agreement.

The defendants are Joseph Wright’s heirs, Briarbrook and the unknown buyers.


The sale of an Oscar statuette is rare but, when it does happen, the Academy is rigorous in its pursuit of those responsible in order to preserve the integrity of the award.

However, the Academy is not always successful in stopping Oscar sales.

In 2012, a collection of 15 statues sold for more than $3 million at an auction in Los Angeles.

The sale included Oscars for the films Wuthering Heights and Citizen Kane.

Joseph Wright won two Oscars for art direction, his second was for This Above All, also from 1942.

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