Statkun v. Gasser and Grunert: Another VARA Claim on the Table in the Southern District of New York
December 5, 2019
Joseph Marino Statkun has filed a lawsuit against the gallery owners Klemens Gasser and Tanjay Grunert claiming damages under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A (1990).
The Gasser Grunert Gallery sold Statkun’s painting Tubal Cain at Beggar’s Creek on August 11, 2010 for $16,000. At the time of sale 10 inches were cropped from the painting without Statkun’s consent. The claim, filed on August 9th, charges: “Upon information and belief, Defendant fraudulently represented to the buyer that Plaintiff had consented to the cropping of Tubal Cain at Beggar’s Creek and that the modified work was an authentic painting by Plaintiff.”
Represented by Raymond R. Mandra of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper and Scinto, Statkun is claiming $20,000 for compensatory damages and $150,000 for statutory damages for each “willful violation of VARA.” VARA provides living artists with the right to protect their artwork from “intentional distortions, mutilation or modification… that would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation.”
As in the case Marc Jancou Fine Art, Ltd. v. Sotheby’s and Cady Noland (Sup. Ct. of N.Y. November 13 2012), dismissed in November 2012 and now in the New York Court of Appeals, artists hold the right to disown their artwork it is modified without prior approval. Cady Noland disowned her artwork, Cowboys Milking (1990), after a small section was damaged during transport and subsequently removed.
For our past coverage on VARA visit: “VARA Claim for the Right of Paternity,” “Marc Jancou’s Case Against Artist Cady Noland Dismissed,” and “Sale of Abandoned Art Blocked by Artist Who Abandoned It.”