Tracking the Disappearance of Antique Properties

Jerry and Wynonne Hart are scheduled to be sentenced today for “misapplication of fiduciary property” in the operation of their auction business at the Hart Galleries. In return for the couple’s guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of theft and money laundering.

11 News reporter Dave Fehling spoke to several former Hart Galleries customers:

The auction house thrived for years. The Harts enjoyed a sterling reputation among the rich and not so rich who all trusted the Harts to sell their valuables. But around 2003, something strange began happening . . .

. . . the Harts auctioned furniture and antiques for John Zielinski and his wife.

They were expecting to get $20,000.

“And I said, ‘where’s our money?’ And they said, ‘we’re having difficulty collecting some of the checks,’” said Zielinski.

The next thing Harts’ customers learned was that the couple was bankrupt.


Cynthia Jones who said she was a victim confronted Jerry Hart.

“He was teary-eyed. We were teary-eyed. And I said, ‘Jerry, you knew you were going to file for bankruptcy when you came out to my house.’ And he said, ‘yes I did,’” said Jones.

[Nancy] Caho, Zielinski and Jones say that they felt betrayed, but assumed the Harts were just bad business people.

It wasn’t until another victim, who expected a $100,000 for a painting, tipped the Harris County DA that something wasn’t right.

An investigation led to felony charges . . .

The Hart’s attorneys would not comment other than to say the Harts were sloppy bookkeepers and didn’t even use a computer.

The former Hart Galleries showroom at 2301 S. Voss — between Westheimer and San Felipe — was torn down in 2006. The site is now the home of the Tanglewood at Voss Apartments. The Harts also ran the Hart Antique & Design Center at 3002 Fondren, between Richmond and Westheimer — a property which is currently listed for sale. And the Harts are listed as partners in the Antique Pavilion at 2311 Westheimer, between Shepherd and Kirby.

Photo of former Hart Galleries showroom at 2301 S. Voss: Hart Galleries

8 Comment

  • I lived in the Oak Lane Apts behind the Antique Pavilion. Are they going to go under too? I bet the property has been prized for years.

  • NEWS FLASH: Harts both sentenced to 14 years in prison. Shock probation not possible since sentences >10 years. Defendants had no reaction as sentence announced.

  • I don’t know where people think they had a sterling reputation. There were problems long before 2003. Rumors began swirling around in the mid 1980s. But they managed to remain the darlings of the society and gossip columnists. So for every victim who swore never to deal with the Harts again, there were two new fools.

    At least they weren’t given probation which concerned quite a few victims. They admit they “borrowed” about $1 million that belonged to the consignors. The district attorney’s office says it was over $4 million. And it is doubtful anyone will ever get a penny of it.

  • One of their former employees works for me and she can attest that things were fishy around there. The Hart’s would refuse to tell people when their consignment’s sold nor what monies were received. They also had screaming matches in front of employees and it was generally an unpleasant working environment. They are a classic case of what a public relations firm can spin. The Mrs. was apparently one mean beeyotch

  • My husband and I spent many years going to the Hart auctions. We enjoyed it, found it entertaining and educational. We enjoyed a bit of cheese and wine and every great once in a while we made a purchase. Jerry was always pleasant and she was not. My impression was that the business came to him through his father and that his children would continue the legacy. She seemed to hate the business but was always on the scene. Sad for their children as well as their victims.

  • They were not sloppy bookkeepers as was previously stated. They were outright thieves. I worked in the gallery and they kept two sets of books which was common knowledge. They were also selling things for one price and then saying they sold it for less and kept the difference and the commission.. Wynonne even did this to her best friend, a doctor’s wife. No decency.

  • I am interested in a western painting, “Rounding up the Horses” by W Hackert. It was auctioned by Hart in Lot # 242 in Mar 2006. Any information on the disposition of this painting would be of interest.

  • so I guess none of us get oor money back. I lost many thousands. Unbelievable.