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Robert Rauschenberg Trial Begins

Topher Forhecz/WGCU

Tuesday was the first day in a long-awaited trial involving the trustees of the late artist Robert Rauschenberg’s estate and his foundation.

When Captiva Island pop artist Robert Rauschenberg died in 2008, he left his $600 million estate in the hands of three trustees.

Since 2011, they have been asking for $60 million in fees for maintaining the estate.

After years of legal wrangling, that request finally made its way to a Fort Myers courtroom.

It will be up to the trustees to prove their roles were so demanding and time-consuming that the almost $6 million they have already paid themselves as compensation is not enough.

Bennet Grutman, the artist’s accountant and one of the trustees, gave the example of planning four memorials for Rauschenberg in the United States and Europe.

“Everything from negotiating the fees to negotiating the cost of the catering to the guest lists to the speaker lists,” he said. “It was an ongoing; continuous, very important to me, the minutiae and the detail of each of these was extremely important to the branding and keeping Mr. Rauschenberg alive.”

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which includes the artist’s son Christopher Rauschenberg, says the amount the group is asking for is unreasonable.

The foundation argues many of the tasks the trustees describe are not part of their duties.

Robert Rauschenberg was an experimental and inventive painter known for his “combines.”

Topher is a reporter at WGCU News.