Artist Peter Max's wife found dead in a suspected suicide

NEW YORK — The wife of the artist Peter Max has died in a suspected suicide amid a family fight over her husband's work and allegations that he was being exploited.

New York City Police say Mary Max, 52, was found dead Sunday in her apartment by her husband's health aide. She had been married since 1997 to Peter Max, whose psychedelic, colorful artworks have sold well since the 1960s.

The New York Times published a story two weeks ago detailing legal battles over the work of Peter Max, a prolific creator of art now living with dementia at age 81.

In lawsuits and interviews, some family members claimed Peter Max was being mistreated and asked to sign his name to work created by a team of other artists.

Max artwork was sold on major cruise lines and galleries around the country. His portraits of the Statue of Liberty were part of the 1976 Biennial celebrations under President Ronald Reagan. The works produced in his studio on Manhattan's Upper West Side fetched five-figure prices at auctions in recent years.

Mary Max figured prominently in the disputes, telling a court that one of Max's sons from a previous marriage, Adam Max, had improperly taken custody of him and kept him from other relatives.

Adam Max countered with his own allegations, accusing Mary Max of being abusive toward her husband — allegations she denied.

A court returned Peter Max to his wife's care, but the fights over his art have continued.

Mary Max's attorney, John Markham said he was his client "wanted a new approach to an analysis of her rights."

The attorney said there's been a recent revival of interest in Peter Max works, "and there's a lot of squabbling over it."

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