Artist’s Fury Over Replaced Logs Sparks Lawsuit

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Swapping out wood that rotted for a decade in a German museum scuttled the $1.4 million purchase of artist Cady Noland’s “Log Cabin,” a collector claims in Federal Court.
     A postmodern conceptual sculptor, Noland created her “Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Cafe Door” as a disembodied wooden façade with the U.S. flag hanging over its entrance at center. The piece fits into the artist’s persistent themes of the dark sides of the American Dream, but stands out as her only work intended to be displayed outdoors.
     “Log Cabin” eventually came to honor the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s late curator John Caldwell, who died of a heart attack at the age of 51 in 1993.
     Now described as Caldwell’s memorial, “Log Cabin” spent 10 years in Berlin before Ohio-based collector Scott Mueller took an interest in the work.
     Mueller, a trustee at Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), claims that he agreed to buy the sculpture through a dealer at the Berlin-based Janssen Gallery on July 2, 2014. He said that he paid more than a million to the gallery’s Singapore office, but that Noland got furious once informed that that Mueller planned to restore the work.
     “Noland angrily denounced the restoration of the artwork without her knowledge and approval,” according to the federal complaint Mueller filed in New York on Monday. “She further stated that any effort to display or sell the sculpture must include notice that the piece was remade without the artist’s consent, that it now consists of unoriginal materials, and that she does not approve of the work.”
     Mueller says that the piece belonged to German collector Wilhelm Schurmann and that the Manhattan-based Marisa Newman Projects facilitated the deal.
     “Noland also sent by facsimile a handwritten note to Mueller on or about July 18, 2014, stating, ‘This is not an artwork’ and objecting to the fact that the sculpture was ‘repaired by a consevator [sic] BUT THE ARTIST WASN’T CONSULTED,” the complaint states. (Emphasis in the original.)
     After consulting with Schurmann, gallery owner Michael Janssen told Mueller’s representative there were “not much options to calm ‘crazy’ Cady down,” according to the complaint.
     Mueller alleges that the Janssen Gallery still has not repaid $800,000 of the original transfer.
     Initial attempts to make Mueller whole allegedly failed, and Mueller says Janssen sent an email last month acknowledging the inability to return the outstanding balance.
     “It is a most unfortunate situation for me as you can imagine and I am working continuously to find a solution,” Janssen allegedly wrote on May 27. “I can only ask again for an extension of your good will and patience, but certainly understand if there is no room for maneuver anymore.”
     Mueller demands $800,000 from Janssen, his gallery, Schurmann, and Marisa Newman Projects for breach of contract, unjust enrichment and conversion.
     He is represented by Robertson Beckerlegge of Baker & Hostetler LLP.

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