Pop Artist’s Foundation Sues Hotel Chelsea

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Late pop artist Larry Rivers’ foundation claims in court that the new owners of New York’s storied Hotel Chelsea swiped his “Dutch Masters” painting that was on loan in the lobby – not a donation.
     The Larry Rivers Foundation sued the hotel’s new owners, Chelsea Dynasty LLC, Chetrit Management LLC and real estate investor Joseph Chetrit, on Monday in New York County Supreme Court.
     A Bronx-born painter, sculptor and jazz musician, Rivers was one of many artists who lived in the Hotel Chelsea. Plaques outside the designated historical landmark commemorate Thomas Wolfe, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, and others. Mark Twain lived there briefly in 1898.
     Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen wrote a song about his tryst with rock legend Janis Joplin there, called “Chelsea Hotel No. 2.” The girlfriend of punk rocker Sid Vicious was found stabbed to death in Room 100, which the hotel later divided into two units.
     The hotel spawned extensive litigation after being sold to Chetrit for a reported $80 million in 2011.
     In a 2013 lawsuit, current owner Chelsea Dynasty LLC claimed that the sellers defrauded him by promising the 22 paintings and photographs on the wall as part of the deal.
     One of the paintings mentioned in that lawsuit was “Dutch Masters,” an oil-on-canvas work painted by Rivers around 1978 or 1979.
     The Larry Rivers Foundation elaborated on its history in its 9-page complaint.
     Rivers loaned another work in its series, “De Kooning’s Father: Portrait of Arshile Gorky,” to the hotel, which hung prominently in its lobby before being sold to a third party, according to the complaint.
     The foundation claims that Rivers loaned, but never intended to donate, “Dutch Masters” to replace that work.
     “After Dutch Masters was installed at the Chelsea Hotel, managers of the Chelsea Hotel asked Larry Rivers to donate Dutch Masters to the Chelsea Hotel and Larry Rivers refused that request,” the complaint states.
     After Rivers died in 2002, his foundation received the title to “Dutch Masters,” according to the complaint.
     The foundation claims that the work has a market value of “not less than $250,000 and probably much more.”
     “Upon information and belief, another work created by Larry Rivers in the same series as ‘Dutch Masters’ is or was in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,” the complaint states.
     The foundation wants the painting and at least $250,000 in damages for conversion and unjust enrichment.
     It is represented by Gary Sesser with Carter Ledyard & Milburn.

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