MANHATTAN (CN) - Two art collectors claim the Gagosian Gallery suckered them into paying millions for works by Richard Prince and Mark Tansey that the world-renowned art gallery couldn't deliver.
Safflane Holdings and Robert Wylde sued the gallery for $46 million in Federal Court, alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation and deceptive business practices.
Safflane, which collects works by Tansey, claims Gagosian senior salesman John Good sold it a 1981 Tansey piece called "The Innocent Eye Test," without fully owning the painting.
Safflane claims that 31 percent of the piece still belonged to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, despite Good's representation that the museum had returned the piece to (nonparty) Charles Cowles, a New York City art dealer.
Safflane says it paid Gagosian $2.5 million for the painting, only to find out that "defendant was not authorized in any way to sell the Tansey painting and the sale of the Tansey painting was extremely embarrassing for defendant."
Wylde claims Gagosian sold him "Millionaire Nurse," a 2002 work by Richard Prince, for $2.2 million, but backed out of the deal to take a better offer, falsely telling Wylde that the owner had withdrawn it from sale.
"John Good advised plaintiff Wylde that he had lied to plaintiff Wylde ... and advised plaintiff Wylde that the truth was that the owner of the Prince Painting had not withdrawn it from sale but that in fact defendant had received a better offer," according to the complaint.
The 30-page complaint describes Tansey as "an American postmodern painter best known for monochromatic works, and elaborate paintings incorporating hidden text, images and symbols." It calls Prince "an American artist who bases his artistic work predominantly on the work of other artists and calls it 'appropriation art.'"
Both artists fetch millions of dollars for their work.
The Gagosian, established by Lawrence Gagosian, is "reputedly one of the most important contemporary art galleries in the world," with outlets in New York City, Beverly Hills, London, Rome, Athens, Paris, Geneva and Hong Kong.
Safflane and Wylde seek $46 million for breach of warranty, breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, repudiation of contract, deceptive business practices and violating the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.
They are represented by Aaron Golub.
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