Lisa and Steve Tananbaum
Palm Beach, Florida; Westchester, New York
Lisa and Steve Tananbaum discovered their mutual love of art while on their second date—a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the years they have spent together since, their interest in looking at art has grown into a passion for owning it. They started their collection with a Damien Hirst butterfly painting, and today their holdings include postwar and contemporary paintings, sculpture, and photography by such historical giants as Brice Marden, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Willem de Kooning, and Gerhard Richter, as well as by younger artists like Jenny Saville, Takashi Murakami, Andreas Gursky, and, of course, Hirst.
In April 2018, Steve Tananbaum filed suit against Gagosian gallery and Jeff Koons over the “non-delivery” of Koons’ three sculptures—Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), Eros, and Diana—that Tananbaum said he had purchased, comparing the deal to a Ponzi scheme. Gagosian, in turn, cited Koons’s reputation as “a perfectionist who often takes years” to complete single artworks. Tananbaum had paid more than $13 million for the works. In June, Gagosian and Koons filed a motion to dismiss the suit.
In September a judge denied some of Tananbaum’s claims, including breach of good faith, but ruled that his argument for breach of contract could move forward. The trial is expected to continue through February 2020. The case will largely be decided on a technicality: whether Venus, Eros, and Diana are considered “limited-edition multiples,” “fine art,” or “copies”—each of which is subject to different disclosure requirements under the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.
In 2019, as the Museum of Modern Art in New York reopened following a $450 million expansion and renovation project, protestors demanded that the institution remove Steve from its board, alleging that his asset management company had profited off the Puerto Rican debt crisis.