Lawsuit

The Mayor Gallery files lawsuit against Agnes Martin catalogue raisonné

A new lawsuit is brought by the Mayor Gallery against the Agnes Martin Authentication Committee underscores the importance of shielding authenticators from liability, and the problems inherent in the status quo.

The Mayor Gallery sold certain paintings to individual collectors in the belief (and representing) that the works were by Agnes Martin. The prices for the works ranged from US$2.9 million for Day & Night, to US$240,000 for an Untitled work, to US$180,000 for The Invisible, among many others. These works were all at some point, according to the Complaint, submitted to the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné and its Authentication Committee.

The Mayor Gallery alleges that the various Agnes Martin works were submitted for authentication pursuant to the Authentication Committee’s Examination Agreement. In each work at issue, the Committee apparently rejected the idea that the works were authentic. The gallery argues that such rejection was reached with an inadequate level of interest or responsiveness, and as a result, it rescinded its sales to the individual owners and repaid the purchase price.

Spanish artist faces authorship lawsuit

The artist Antonio de Felipe, arguably Spain’s most established contemporary Pop artist, is facing one of the most challenging moments of his career: Fumiko Negishi, a Japanese artist based in Spain, has launched a lawsuit claiming she has painted 221 canvases signed by De Felipe.

Negishi said she worked at De Felipe’s Madrid studio for over 10 years, from 2006 until this past February, when she received a letter of dismissal citing financial reasons. Upon her dismissal, she felt that the artist did not respect her work or had any sympathy towards her situation, so she decided to tell her story.

She is not only telling her story to the Spanish media, but also to a judge. In the lawsuit, she demands that de Felipe “admits the truthful facts regarding the authorship of the paintings” and tells collectors and institutions that have purchased said works that Negishi is their author, or at least co-author.

She also demands that de Felipe rectify statements he made in media outlets claiming to be the sole author of his works, with no mention of Negishi’s contributions.

Meanwhile, de Felipe deny the claims: “[Negishi] has intervened in some areas of my paintings, but the intellectual authorship of the works is mine. Fumiko has not contributed anything to them,” De Felipe said, accusing Negishi of being disloyal and adding that she’s only “a studio assistant, like all artists have.”

Negishi, meanwhile, claims she executed the 221 paintings from scratch, based on sketches De Felipe had given to her. Negishi adds that those sketches were done by Photoshop, not by the artist’s hand, and that on occasions not even a sketch was provided as a starting point, only a photograph or an idea. Except for the original sketches, and adding his signature to the finished works, “De Felipe did not touch those paintings,” Negishi states.

Negishi’s current lawsuit doesn’t include a monetary compensation, but could be followed up with a subsequent legal process where it would be demanded.

Gallery sued over US$100K Chiparus fakes

A Manhattan art gallery is being sued for selling inauthentic sculptures by the renowned art deco artist Demétre Chiparus. The cost? Over US$100,000.

Christopher Rouse claims Elliot Stevens gallery attempted to convince him that the statues were made using original molds which was acquired after the sculptor died in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Rouse maintains to have been told that the statues were for sale at a 75% markdown because the gallery owners were retiring. In reality, however, the Romanian sculptor lived and died in Paris, and an expert witness at the trial in a Manhattan federal court testified that the statues were most likely Chinese-made forgeries copied from photographs.

The gallery denies that it mislead Rouse, insisting that his version of events are not true. According to documents, the gallery describes the artworks as having been “cast and carved from an original model by DH Chiparus.”

Elliot Stevens CEO Steven Shalom was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday but was forced to postpone his testimony due to illness. Shalom will testify in October, when the trial continues.

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

In 2009, two years before news of the Knoedler Gallery’s US$70m sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings began to emerge, Ann Freedman resigned as director. Two years later, the venerable gallery closed down and the lawsuits against Knoedler and Freedman began to flood in. Five settled. The first to reach trial, brought by the collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, also settled its claims against Freedman on 7 February (and against Knoedler shortly afterwards), just before she was set to take the stand in the New York courtroom. Her testimony had been eagerly anticipated, not least because she has never given her view of the unfolding scandal and her involvement in it. Until now.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in an exclusive interview, her first in several years, she summed up the situation thus: “There has been a lot of misunderstanding.” We spoke to her in her sun-filled gallery on the Upper East side, FreedmanArt, which she opened in 2011. “Looking back, there can be things I didn’t see at the time… Could I have done some things differently? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I don’t have an answer sitting here. I will at some point probably.”

FBI seizes art and documents from Santa Fe dealers

FBI agents carried paintings, documents and a computer last week from the homes of two Santa Fe art dealers under investigation for possible fraud, court documents show, as artists claim they have not been paid for work the duo has sold and buyers allege they have not received pieces they purchased.

Search warrants unsealed in federal court Friday indicate investigators are trying to track down paintings claimed by several artists and buyers who say they have struggled for years to recover works that rotated through galleries jointly owned by Saher Saman and Marji Hoyle.

Fake Brett Whiteley paintings sold for more than $3.6 million

Two men created and sold fake paintings by famous Australian artist Brett Whiteley for more than AUS$3.6 million, a court has heard.

Supreme Court Justice Michael Croucher, when outlining the Crown case to the jury on Monday against art dealer Peter Gant and fine art restorer Mohamed Aman Siddique, said the pair had allegedly been involved in a joint criminal enterprise.

Justice Croucher said Mr Siddique was accused of creating three paintings – Big Blue Lavender Bay, Orange Lavender Bay and Through the Window – in the style of Brett Whiteley, who died in 1992.

Jute-Sack case heats up: Ibrahim Mahama countersues Simchowitz and Ellis King

In the latest chapter in an ongoing feud, a lawyer for the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama has filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court in California against dealers Stefan Simchowitz and Jonathan Ellis King, who served the artist with a lawsuit last year.

The countersuit alleges that Simchowitz and Ellis King broke a contract with the artist that stipulated they would not alter works they purchased from him and sell them, and that they violated the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 that protects an artist from “any intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work.” Mahama is requesting an award of damages for economic losses, damage to reputation and honor, and emotional distress, in addition to punitive damages and attorney’s fees. There’s also a request for an injunction preventing them from selling his work.

Sotheby's defends suit over a Motherwell

In a lawsuit that can only be described as highly unusual, Irish art dealer Oliver Sears has sued Sotheby’s auction house in US District Court, Southern District of New York, over a purported Robert Motherwell painting consigned for auction this past fall that was withdrawn before the November sale, since it was believed to be a fake.

The case as laid out in the legal complaint is not entirely clear and often very confusing. But it appears that what Sears saw featured in the Sotheby’s catalogue titled Brushy Elegy, and dated 1979—a work he owns and has physical possession of in his native country of Ireland—was likely a copy. Sears’ attorney says he was alarmed not only by the fact of seeing what he believed was his painting for sale, but also by the far lower estimate of what he says his authentic Motherwell is worth.

Smears, counterclaims and lawsuits — the tangled web surrounding Prince of Liechtenstein’s Cranach

There has been a bizarre new twist in the case of the Prince of Liechtenstein’s painting of Venus, attributed to Cranach, which was seized on 1 March by a French judge. The Art Newspaper has learned that the painting is the subject of a lawsuit that has been ongoing since May 2014. The case was launched in Paris by an art dealer against two middlemen. The French dealer, who cannot currently be named, says he was the owner of the painting and was cheated of the true value of the work after agreeing to a contract of sale in November 2012.

The middlemen in turn claim the French dealer sold the panel to them in January 2013, for €510,000, as a work by an anonymous artist, which was only later authenticated as a Cranach by two scholars. The middlemen claim that disputes arose when they wanted to check the work’s provenance, in case it had been looted during the Second World War, but also after the French dealer learned of the huge sale prices obtained in a matter of months. The French dealer is suing for breach of trust.