Dealer Accused of Shady Sale of KAWS Works

     (CN) — A New York art dealer lied to sell works by international graffiti artist and painter KAWS worth $350,000 to a disreputable buyer, the gallery that represents the artist claims in court.
     Boone Associates, which does business as the Mary Boone Gallery, sued Vanessa Buia and her art advisory firm in New York Supreme Court Monday.
     “Among the most important assets of any art gallery business, let alone a gallery as important as the Mary Boone Gallery, is its relationship with important artists,” the complaint states. “When important artists join a gallery, and allow a gallery to represent the artist’s interests, this can attract both customers and other artists to the gallery’s stable.”
     One of the most “important” artists the New York City-based Boone Gallery represents is Brian Donnelly, who works under the name KAWS, according to the complaint.
     “KAWS works with the gallery because of its reputation for carefully nurturing and building the career of its artists, a reputation built over decades, and particularly because, as an internationally respected gallery, it has important relationships with key art collectors and exercises care in deciding where important works of art are sold.”
     Boone says Buia, which “once operated a gallery which publicly failed,” sought to buy two of KAWS’ new works in April 2016.
     “Buia knew that the gallery would not sell new KAWS works to an unimportant collection, and it would absolutely not allow such works to be exhibited in a location that interfered with a foreign gallery relationship the artist maintained.”
     Boone says Buia therefore “warranted that she was acting for an important collector of contemporary art whom she identified, a person whose name she undoubtedly knew would be considered appropriate by the gallery and would please the artist.”
     Had the dealer named a different buyer, the gallery “would have refused to sell the works at all to Buia,” the complaint states.
     The gallery says it thus gave Buia $60,000 discount, against a total asking price of $350,000.
     But Buia’s claims about the named buyer were false, according to the complaint.
     Indeed, the named collector “never retained Buia or Buia LLC and knows nothing of any of this,” Boone claims.
     Once the gallery shipped the works out, “a remarkable thing appears to have happened: over the next seven days, the paper trail indicates that the works changed hands several times,” the complaint states.
     Boone says that after a nonparty, a “shadowy California partnership called XV Capital,” acquired the works from Buia, a nonparty Parisian dealer got them, and then passed them on to nonparty Galerie Laurent Strouk in Paris, which displayed the works around May 7.
     “Not only would the gallery never have consented to a sale of the works to the Galerie Laurent Strouk, or any of the intermediate way stations where, it appears, title briefly resided, the fact that they were displayed in the Galerie Laurent Strouk interfered with the artist’s separate relationship with a different Paris art gallery,” Boone claims.
     The plaintiff says Buia has “harmed [its] reputation, and has embarrassed the artist in his relationship with his principal Paris art gallery.”
     Boone seeks $60,000 for fraudulent inducement and fraud, plus interest, costs, and fees.
     The gallery is represented by Ted Poretz with Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman in New York.
     Buia’s attorney, Richard Luthmann in Staten Island, N.Y., called the lawsuit “a crass attempt to avoid being legally out-maneuvered in her own game of Donald Trump-styled ‘bully lawsuits’ intended to money-whip her competition in the art world.”
     Luthmann sent along Buia’s own lawsuit which she filed the same day as Boone’s claiming Buia filed suit first.
     “Boone’s allegations of fraud are baseless, fail to detail any real facts and verge upon the pathetic,” Luthmann added. “Boone’s methods smack of extortion.”
     Luthmann said Boone has “violated the cardinal rule of anonymity in the art world” and that her “breach of trust appears to be unforgivable, even despite her ‘eccentricities.'”
     KAWS could not be reached for comment.

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