CHICAGO (CN) - An online auction house claimed to have lost consigned artworks that it actually sold in secret, the artist behind those works claims in court.
The allegations against Universal Collectibles dba Midwest Estate Buyers and Martin Shape come in complaint William Chambers filed Tuesday in Cook County Court.
Chambers claims to be a "nationally renowned artist and master signature member, who was commissioned by the Bradford Exchange to paint scenes from classic movies to be depicted on collectible plates." His paintings have won numerous awards from the Portrait Society of America.
The Bradford Exchange is a producer of collectibles, originally founded in 1973 as the Bradford Gallery of Collector's Plates.
Chambers says he agreed to consign a number of his works to Universal to auction online for an agreed upon minimum price. The consignment allegedly included plates depicting scenes from "Gone with the Wind," "My Fair Lady," "Annie," and "The King and I," along with paintings of the late Princess Diana of England.
While the defendants would keep 35 percent of the final sale price, the agreement set 65 percent aside for Chambers, according to the complaint.
Chambers said he soured on the deal, however, when the defendants sold certain of his paintings and then sent him checks that "were returned NSF [not sufficient funds] and had to be re-deposited or exchanged for cash payment."
When Chambers tried to terminate the agreement, Universal allegedly refused to return his paintings, eventually telling him that four Annie paintings "had been stolen by movers when defendants moved their offices," according to the complaint.
Chambers later discovered, however, that these paintings "had been sold in online auctions in January and February 2012 for far below the agreed minimum price under the agreement."
"One of the paintings appears to have been sold at two different auctions," the complaint continues.
"The defendants did not inform the plaintiff of those sales nor have they pay the plaintiff any amount for these paintings to date."
Chambers seeks damages for breach of contract, conversion, and fraud.
He is represented by Robyn Kish with Klein, Daday, Aretos & O'Donoghue in Rolling Meadows, Ill.
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