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Arguments Between Artists and Patrons

3 August 2015

Tension is mounting in the quarrel between artist Danh Vō and collector Bert Kreuk after the Dutch courts ordered Vō to complete a promised artwork within a year. In response, Vō recently wrote an open letter to Kreuk proposing that he fulfil this obligation by having his father paint an offensive line from The Exorcist on the wall of Kreuk’s Panama home and room 38 of the Gemeentemuseum. As the dispute continues, we take a look at similar arguments between artists, patrons and various third parties.

James McNeill Whistler vs. Frederick Leyland

Despite only being asked to help pick out a colour scheme for a room in Frederick Leyland’s Kensington home, Whistler decided to surprise his first significant patron by decorating the walls with elaborate paintings of peacocks. Leyland told him he would only pay half of the costs for the unexpected work, but Whistler continued to add embellishments to his design. After going over budget by an equivalent of $200,000 today, Leyland warned Whistler that he would be horse-whipped if he ever came to the house again.

Tracey Emin vs. Islington Primary School

After making a quilt with children from Ecclesbourne primary school in Islington in 2001, Emin was ‘extremely upset and distressed by the news that the school was planning to auction off the work to raise funds. In response, she demanded that the piece, Tell Me Something Beautiful, be returned to her immediately. It was last reported as hidden in the school in an orange plastic bag.

Damien Hirst vs. New London Property Owners

The new owners of a house in Fulham were thrilled to discover that Damien Hirst had painted one of his spot paintings on to the wallpaper for the previous owners. However, when they tried to sell Bombay Mix, they discovered that Hirst, anticipating such a situation, had issued a certificate of authentication to the original owner, without which the work was impossible to sell. Hirst demanded that the piece be returned and destroyed.

Cady Noland vs. Collectors

Following a similar case with Marc Jancou in 2013, Noland has recently infuriated another collector by disowning one of her works. After Scott Mueller agreed to pay $1.4 million for Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door, he received a furious handwritten note from the artist stating that because the artwork had undergone restoration, it ‘is not an artwork’. Mueller has filed a lawsuit against the gallery that sold it to him.

William Egglestone vs. Jonathan Sobel

New York collector Sobel was outraged when he discovered that photographer William Eggleston was selling oversized prints of some of his famous images at Christie’s. Sobel filed a lawsuit against Egglestone, claiming this would dilute the value of the originals he had collected and demanding that Egglestone be banned from making additional versions of his older prints. The court dismissed his case.

Jeff Koons vs. Park Life Gallery

In 2011 Koons attempted to sue the Park Life gallery bookstore in San Francisco for selling bookends in the shape of balloon dogs. He decided to abandon the claim after the bookstore’s lawyer made a statement declaring that ‘As virtually any clown can attest, no one owns the idea of making a balloon dog.’

Lucian Freud vs. Jerry Hall

American model Jerry Hall suffered the wrath of Lucien Freud when he replaced her face and upper body with that of his male assistant, David Dawson, in a painting of her breastfeeding her son. Freud informed his agent that ‘the painting’s had a sex change…Jerry didn’t show up for two sittings, so I changed her into a man.’

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