PONTIAC, MICH. (CN) - Fine Art Registry, an Internet business run by Theresa Franks, with assistance from her "self-styled art expert" Bruce Hochman, repeatedly defamed Park West Galleries by baselessly accusing it of trafficking in bogus Salvador Dali artworks, Park West claims in Oakland County Court.
Park West claims the defendants have defamed it with false accusations published in at least 15 articles on the Internet. It claims the defendants lack the "expertise" they claim to possess.
Franks, of Arizona, is founder and CEO of the Registry, the complaint states. Hochman is director of the Salvador Dali Gallery in San Juan Capistrano.
Franks' Fine Art Registry charges customers "to 'register' their art via a 'tagging system' for works of art and also purports to offer a means of establishing provenance and ownership of pieces of art," the complaint states. But Park West says the FAR registers the artwork online, "never examines the actual artwork" and makes promises it cannot back up.
Park West adds: "FAR CEO defendant Franks possesses no experience or authority to appraise or authenticate artwork - in fact, defendant Franks was employed in the insurance business until 2006. Defendant Hochman, the person whom FAR retains as its art expert, also has no artistic credentials, but does have a criminal history."
The complaint does not elucidate the nature of Hochman's alleged criminal history.
Park West claim the defendants have been defaming it and tortiously interfering with its business since May 2007, and "have actively sought out customers of Park West and repeated their defamatory statements to them. Defendants Franks and Hochman have on several occasions told customers of Park West that Salvador Dali artwork they had purchased from Park West was not authentic and urged and otherwise caused such customers to develop ill will, contempt, and distrust of Park West, to demand a refund of their purchase price for such art, and to have no further dealings with Park West."
The gallery demands punitive damages for conspiracy, defamation, and tortious interference. It is represented by Rodger Young of Southfield, Mich.