CHICAGO (CN) - A prominent Chicago art dealer defamed a gallery by claiming that it "cheated" an artist of money with "hogwash" and an "unethical" policy, the gallery claims in court.
Paul Klein has been a fixture on the Chicago art scene for 30 years, first as gallery owner and now as an art career adviser through his company, Klein Art Works. His website offers webinars on how to become a successful contemporary artist, and publishes a newsletter.
But Ivy Associates dba Ann Nathan Gallery claims that Klein portrayed it as a villain in a recent article.
The gallery, which specializes in contemporary paintings, sculpture and artist-made furniture, says it has exhibited approximately 208 pieces from the artist Amy Lowry over the last 18 years.
Lowry's 1994 consignment agreement with the gallery promised 50 percent of the proceeds from any artwork sold, according to the complaint.
"By terms of the agreement, Lowry also agreed that she would be responsible for framing costs of artwork and that if the Ann Nathan Gallery paid in advance for framing, Lowry must reimburse the Gallery from the sale of her artwork," the complaint says.
Five Lowry works that the gallery paid $1,900 to frame allegedly sold for a total of $17,100 in July 2006. The gallery says it then sent Lowry a check for 50 percent of the proceeds, but did not deduct framing costs.
When the gallery sold another Lowry painting in October 2006, this time for $9,500.00, it cut Lowry a $2,850.00 check that accounted for the framing costs, according to the complaint.
The gallery says it sent Lowry an invoice detailing the sale and the gallery's deductions.
Earlier this month, it learned that Klein skewered the 5-year-old transaction in an article for his newsletter titled "How a Gallery Cheated an Artist," according to the complaint.
Lowry and other newsletter subscribers allegedly received the article, which included a partially redacted copy of the gallery's invoice, via email.
Klein's article "states that the '[p]olicies/behavior revealed here are hogwash and unethical.' Klein further states that the transaction described in the invoice 'is a horrible business practice!' and that the gallery 'cheated [Lowry] out of $1710!' After stating the forgoing, Klein advised that '[a]lmost all galleries are reputable, with solid business practices."
But the gallery claims that Klein failed to mention Lowry's signed consignment agreement, "which had explicitly agreed to the cost methodology underlying the invoice."
"That omission, coupled with the charge that the Gallery had 'cheated' Lowry, necessarily and falsely suggested that Lowry had been deceived about how framing costs, when in fact Lowry was fully aware of and had explicitly agreed to the precise cost handling that had occurred," the complaint states.
"On or about June 11, 2012, soon after and as a result of Klein's publication of the article, Lowry informed the Ann Nathan Gallery that she wished to terminate her relationship with the Gallery and requested that her un-sold pieces of artwork consigned to the Gallery for sale pursuant to the Agreement be returned to her," the gallery added.
The gallery seeks damages for defamation, invasion of privacy and tortious interference. It is represented by Andrew Staes of Staes & Scallan.
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