Brazilian police investigating the murder of Brent Sikkema, a prominent New York art dealer who was found stabbed to death last month in his Rio de Janeiro apartment, are now seeking the arrest of his husband, Daniel Sikkema.
It was a shocking twist in a case that has captivated the art world. Brent Sikkema represented a number of leading contemporary artists, and his gallery was preparing to help one of them, Jeffrey Gibson, represent the United States this spring at the Venice Biennale, the most prestigious exhibition in the world.
A lawyer for Daniel Sikkema, Fabiana Marques, said that he was innocent and that he remained in New York, where he was “shocked” by the latest development.
When Brent Sikkema was found slain in Rio, investigators said that at least $40,000 had been stolen. After recovering surveillance footage that they said showed his former bodyguard, a 30-year-old man named Alejandro Triana Prevez, entering and exiting the home, they took Mr. Prevez into custody about 600 miles northwest of the city. (The police originally identified Mr. Prevez with the surname Trevez.)
A lawyer for Mr. Prevez, Gregorio Andrade, said that Mr. Prevez claims that Daniel Sikkema had offered him $200,000 to carry out the assassination. “He manipulated my client,” Mr. Andrade said.
The Sikkemas were married for nearly 15 years but have been locked in divorce proceedings since 2022, which included a fight over the custody terms of their son, who is now 13.
Daniel Sikkema’s lawyer, Ms. Marques, said her client was innocent of the murder. “It’s important to note that Daniel was not given an opportunity to be heard by police, despite proactively offering himself for questioning via email,” she said.
She questioned Mr. Prevez’s account. “Alejandro’s strategy of accusing someone of being the mastermind behind the crime, especially while being flanked by his attorneys, clearly aims at securing a more lenient sentence,” she argued.
It was rare to see Daniel Sikkema at the openings and closings of the exhibitions his husband staged, according to friends of the art dealer. He emigrated to the United States after a difficult childhood in Cuba and an early adulthood working as a male escort in Spain. He chronicled that journey in a 2006 autobiography called “Ticket to Paradise,” which described how he escaped the island and made a living.
On an evening shortly after Brent Sikkema was found dead, Daniel Sikkema posted a photograph of a black rose on social media, where he goes by his birth name, Daniel García Carrera. He later wrote a short post in Spanish to express his grief. “Our son and I cry for you without tears, we cry for you in the way that hurts the most,” he said.
Friends of the art dealer have continued to mourn his death.
“His heart was in the art,” said Arlene Shechet, an artist who was represented by Brent Sikkema’s gallery, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., for several years. “Being a businessman was never his inspiration.”
The former top editor of Artforum, David Velasco, had become close to Brent Sikkema, and was planning to visit the dealer in Rio when he learned of the murder.
“He was a friend and in some ways a father figure,” Mr. Velasco said. “I remember seeing him and Daniel after the birth of their son. They were over the moon.”
“Every part of this,” Mr. Velasco said, “is so heartbreaking.”
Ana Ionova contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.