NEW YORK—This past March, artist Dana Melamed brought a lawsuit alleging fraud against her Manhattan art gallery, Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, for selling a group of her mixed-media works at Art Basel in 2009 to a single buyer and misrepresenting the price. The gallery sold her work for $143,650 but informed her that the total price came to just $98,000, according to her complaint. Melamed demanded the money owed to her and the return of all of her artworks in the possession of the gallery. The artwork was returned to her, however, the remaining financial claims of the lawsuit are still pending.
On Aug. 25, Monaco-based art gallery SEM Art brought a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court on behalf of an as-yet-unnamed buyer against Priska Juschka for not delivering three of the 12 artworks it had purchased. Those three artworks were among those returned to the artist.
“My client purchased 12 works and got nine,” William Honan, the lawyer representing SEM Art, told ARTnewsletter.
According to the most recent complaint, the buyer paid Priska Juschka the full $143,650 on June 30, 2009 and another $22,000 for framing on Feb. 17, 2010. After paying in full, the buyer received nine Melamed works—titled Temporary Cities No. 1 through Temporary Cities No. 9, with each priced at $10,200—but three other works that also were supposed to be framed and shipped to the buyer never arrived.
The gallery returned artwork to Melamed in early April, putting the artist in possession of the three mixed-media works—Urban Mechanism, which was priced at $9,350, Driven, priced at $21,250, and Post-Human, priced at $21,250—that SEM Art had paid for two years earlier.
“The artist is holding the artwork, which is the basis of the second lawsuit,” said Malcolm Taub, the lawyer representing Priska Juschka, “so we’re left with a vicious triangle. Personally, I think the first lawsuit should be dropped, because the artist was paid and has all her artwork back.” He described the SEM Art lawsuit as an “unfortunate situation involving a year of issues relating to the framing of one piece. The buyer got impatient, and it led to all this.”
The SEM Art lawsuit alleges that Priska C. Juschka Fine Art was formally dissolved as a corporate entity on April 21 of this year, although the gallery “is still operating and showing art,” Taub said. The gallery, which focuses on emerging and mid-career artists, was founded in 2001 and is jointly owned by Juschka and Arnold Katzen.
SEM Art’s lawsuit requests damages of at least $62,850, covering the cost of the undelivered artworks and framing costs, in addition to interest on that amount and attorney fees.