Artist Jeff Koons and Gagosian gallery are being sued in New York State Supreme Court by a prominent art collector over the failure to receive art that was promised but not delivered despite payments made, reported Reuters. Wall Street investor, New York art collector and MoMA trustee Steven Tananbaum is seeking $39 million in damages for three purchased sculptures in a legal filing that describes a selling practice as one "...that harkens the name Ponzi."
The suit, filed on April 19, 2018, details a history of multiple years that unfolded between the dates of sales and the lack of delivery. The lawsuit alleges Koons and Gagosian gallery founder Larry Gagosian of using money paid in advance for art as contributing to funding an extravagant lifestyles by using "inappropriate and highly questionable practices," according to Fortune magazine.
According to the 53-page complaint, Tananbaum agreed to pay over $24 million for Koons's Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta) (2013–15), Eros and Diana and has paid $13.05 million for the art. To date, the sculptures have not delivered with original promised dates significantly delayed, according to Reuters. Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), which was purchased in 2014 and promised in December 2015, has been delayed repeated due to "...complicated reverse engineering by the fabricator," according to Frieze.com. The delivery date has been rescheduled by the gallery to 2016, 2018 and now 2019, according to Frieze.com. The 2019 date has not been accepted by Tananbaum, according to media reports.
Tananbaum's filing claims his experience is systemic of the way business is being conducted by the defendants. The suit claims a pattern of collectors making deposits and installment payments with art delivery dates then delayed by six months to a year after the original agreed upon date, according to the lawsuit.
“The archaic system, once all of the obfuscations are stripped away, exposes a garden-variety, interest-free fraudulent financial routine that hearkens the name Ponzi,” according to the suit. “New money is used to pay old obligations, not to mention that the archaic system is one that oversold the artist’s capacity.”
The complaint maintains that Tananbaum did not agree to the postponed dates and is now seeking damages for breach of the agreements, according to ArtNews. No further information is available at this time.
In 2013, Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2009, was sold by Christie's for a record price for a living sculptor. The sculpture, one of five unique versions, is made of a mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating. It sold for $58.4 million.
Jeff Koons is regarded as an important, influential, popular and controversial artist of the postwar era. Throughout his career, he has pioneered new approaches to artmaking, pushed boundaries between what was widely considered fine art and mass culture. He has also challenged the limits of industrial fabrication and helped usher artists into the cult of celebrity on a global scale, according to The Whitney Museum of American Art. The New York City museum mounted a far-ranging retrospective for Koons in 2014.
In other recent Jeff Koons news, the design for a public memorial donated by Koons to the City of Paris caused controversy in France in January 2018 over its financial viability and whether it should go forward. The sculpture, Bouquet of Tulips, takes the form of an oversized hand holding pastel flowers and is a gesture of friendship between America and France. The artwork is meant to commemorate those killed in a terror attack on November 13, 2015.
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