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    Consignor Files Lawsuit Over Withdrawn Auction Lot

    On April 9, Sotheby’s and artist Cady Noland were the target of new allegations in a suit brought by a consignor whose artwork was withdrawn from a contemporary art sale last fall.

    NEW YORK—On April 9, Sotheby’s and artist Cady Noland were the target of new allegations in a suit brought by a consignor whose artwork was withdrawn from a contemporary art sale last fall.

    Geneva and New York dealer Marc Jancou filed an amended suit in New York State Supreme court, seeking a potential $58 million, after Noland’s screenprint, Cowboys Milking, 1990, which had been estimated at $250,000/350,000, was removed from a contemporary art, day sale scheduled for Nov. 11. According to the complaint, the new allegations “arise out of documents produced by?Sotheby’s Inc., in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment dated March 27.”

    Several days before the scheduled auction last fall, on Nov. 7, the artist herself had viewed the work and said the piece had “undergone material and detrimental changes since the time of its creation,” according to the complaint. Three of the four corners of the aluminum were bent to some degree, which to the artist made it unfit to be sold, according to court papers. “This was not ordinary wear-and-tear,” Daniel Brooks, Noland’s lawyer, said. Sotheby’s declined to comment.

    Jancou disputes the claim that the Noland screenprint was in poor condition, citing a Sotheby’s condition report that was part of its consignment agreement with the dealer that described the artwork as “in very good condition overall.”

    The lawsuit contends that Sotheby’s breached its contractual obligations to put the artwork up for sale and was only permitted under its consignment agreement to remove the piece if there was a “doubt as to the authenticity or attribution” of the Noland. “There was no doubt in anyone’s mind at Sotheby’s as to the authenticity or attribution,” Paul Hanly, the attorney for Jancou, says. “They were simply giving in to an artist’s unreasonable demands.”

    The lawsuit asks for actual and punitive damages against the auctioneer of $32 million. The lawsuit also names Cady Noland for “interfering” with a legitimate sale of her work, asking for actual and punitive damages of $26 million. The amount of the damage claims is based partly on another Noland screenprint on aluminum work, Oozewald, 1989, which sold at Sotheby’s Nov. 10 evening sale (ANL, 11/15/11) for $6.6 million, higher than the $2 million/3 million estimate and setting a new auction record for the artist.