Beard, whose portraits of rock stars and models made him famous, helped launch White’s career after discovering her at a New York City night spot when she was 17. In her July 23 lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court, she describes herself as Beard’s “longtime friend and collaborator.”
White claims that Beard, 76, asked her to fund the giant photo collages because he “desperately needed money” to escape from his wife, co-defendant Nejma Beard.
Beard confided that his wife holds the purse strings to his finances, and was “controlling” and “abusive,” White says in the complaint.
White claims that the photographer told her his wife had made him sleep on the lobby floor of their apartment building, that she had him committed to Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, and “would manipulate him into returning home against his will by refusing him access to his medication.”
“Mr. Beard once created a work of art for Ms. White on which he wrote text suggesting that Ms. Beard, to whom he referred as an ‘Afghan trench-warfare terrorist’ from ‘the wilds of Kenya,’ fantasized about ‘strangling’ Ms. White and was ‘plotting’ to do so,” the complaint states.
Beard’s troubles prompted him to ask White to invest her life savings in two photo shoots of supermodels Pamela Anderson, Chanel Iman, Elettra Wiedemann, Helena Christensen, Nina Agdal, Alexandra Richards and others, according to the lawsuit.
The goal was to sell the handmade giant photo collages for millions of dollars so the photographer could escape from his wife’s “grasp,” White says in the complaint.
“Mr. Beard and Ms. White agreed that to compensate her for her financing and production of the shoots, Ms. White would receive the first 25 pieces from each shoot, and each participating model would receive one piece. The remaining pieces would be sold and the profits from those sales shared pursuant to an agreed upon schedule,” the complaint states.
White claims that under the October 2013 agreement, Beard agreed to create 50 and 90 collages within six months of the shoot for a flat fee of $18,000 for the first 25 pieces, plus 60 percent of proceeds from the sale any subsequent pieces.
She claims that Beard agreed to create another 50 to 90 pieces from a second photo shoot. Her 18-page lawsuit claims that White spent a “six-figure sum” – all her life’s savings – on the two shoots, and paid Beard tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, including a $26,000 dentist bill.
“Mr. Beard, however, failed to live up to his end of the bargain. Although he initially completed 3 pieces from the first shoot and 13 pieces from the second shoot, he failed to provide Ms. White with the additional 34 pieces she is due, nor did he provide any of the models with the pieces they were promised,” the complaint states.
White says it is “no stretch of the imagination” that Nejma Beard told her husband to walk away from the agreement.
“Upon information and belief, just as Mr. Beard conceived his collaboration with Ms. White in order to raise money to escape Ms. Beard’s grasp, once Ms. Beard learned of the project, she forbade Mr. Beard and actively prevented him from abiding by his contractual commitment to complete the agreed-upon pieces, purposefully causing Ms. White and the participating models to be deprived of the compensation they are due,” the lawsuit states.
White seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of faith, promissory estoppel, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference with contract. She also wants Beard barred from entering into a consignment agreement for the pieces with another party.
White’s company Natalie V. White LLC is a party to the lawsuit, as is Peter Beard Studio.
White is represented by Mariann Wang, with Cuti Hecker Wang.
Peter’s Beard’s attorney Alex Spiro declined to comment.
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