LaChapelle and David LaChapelle Studios sued Fred Torres, Fred Torres Collaborations (FTC) and Fine Art Accounts, on Aug. 8 in New York State Supreme Court.
LaChapelle described himself in the complaint as “a world renowned photographer and director whose career spans three decades,” whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, GQ and Rolling Stone.”
He has done portraits of Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali, Madonna, Hillary Clinton, Eminem and Leonardo DiCaprio, and directed music videos for Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Elton John, according to the lawsuit.
LaChapelle claims Torres became his manager in 2005, and “negotiated art sales, sent invoices to buyers, collected the proceeds from sales, consignments and exhibitions, paid vendors, deducted a percentage for [his] services and remitted a percentage to plaintiffs.”
Torres and FTC were in nearly complete control of LaChapelle’s finances, but the photographer says they were never granted any ownership of his copyrighted artwork.
To authenticate prints of LaChapelle’s work, Torres would send invoices and payment to the artist, who would then provide an authentication label that gave the pieces their value.
LaChapelle claims that “in or about November 2011, Torres/FTC breached the parties’ established protocol … [and] told LaChapelle that he needed authentication labels for approximately four hundred thousand dollars’ ($400,000.00) worth of art work that he/FTC already sold, but could not pay for because of alleged ‘cash flow’ problems.”
LaChapelle says he agreed to send the labels as long as he was paid within sixty days, but “months went by … [and] Torres/FTC did not remit to plaintiffs their rightful share of the proceeds from sales associated with the labels.”
The parties met in April 2012, and “Torres/FTC’s own spreadsheet … showed that they owed plaintiffs $1,092,110.00,” according to the complaint.
Torres promised to pay $30,000 a month until the debt was repaid, but failed to make any payments, LaChapelle says in the lawsuit.
Another meeting in November 2012 revealed that Torres/FTC owed LaChapelle exactly $2,826,844.84, not including more than $650,000 in personal loans made by LaChappelle to Torres, according to the complaint.
LaChapelle says he terminated the contract in November 2012, but that “since the notice of termination, Torres/FTC represented to the media that they represented LaChapelle’s artwork, arranged and promoted an unauthorized gallery showing of that artwork, continued and continue to sell LaChapelle catalogues on their Internet website, and continue to exhibit LaChapelle’s work in various locations in Manhattan.”
LaChapelle seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud and interference with a business contract.
He is represented by Lauren Wachtler, with Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp.
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