Sun, Feb 09, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Inside the art world

A lawsuit brought against Gagosian by a billionaire collector puts the spotlight on the opaque sales practices of powerful galleries in Europe, Asia and the US

By Chris Dolmetsch  /  Bloomberg, New York

“The court has affirmed that we have a valid fraud claim against Mr. Gagosian based on his unfair dominance of the art market,” Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman for Perelman, said in an e-mail.

LEAVING PAPHOS?

The suit also involves two other transactions that Perelman made with the gallery, according to the ruling: a September 2011 agreement to buy a US$10.5 million Cy Twombly painting called Leaving Paphos Ringed With Waves (1), 2009 in exchange for US$250,000 cash and four other works, including the Popeye sculpture; and a pact to buy a US$12.6 million Richard Serra sculpture called Junction, 2011, for US$4.75 million in cash and five other works.

The gallery said in its suit that Perelman offered less money for the sculpture and pieces of art from his collection, and refused to pay for the painting, again offering to exchange pieces from his collection. Perelman said in his complaint that the gallery overvalued the works it traded in the deals, while undervaluing the pieces he offered in exchange.

“BOGUS CLAIMS”

“We are delighted that the judge summarily dismissed five of the six bogus claims that were put forth by Mr. Perelman,” Matthew Dontzin, an attorney for Gagosian, said in a telephone interview. “The judge felt that at this very early stage she could not accept the documentary proof we put forward destroying any evidence of fraud and we look forward to the day when those documents can be considered by the court.”

In dismissing the breach of contract claim, Kapnick said it is assumed in the lawsuit that the gallery would be involved in any subsequent sale of the Popeye sculpture “given Gagosian role as Koons’ representative and the foremost dealer in Koons’ work.”

“However, the MacAndrews purchase agreement contains no such obligation on defendants’ part, and the court, in the guise of contract interpretation, may not add this obligation to the parties’ agreement,” Kapnick wrote.

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