A lawsuit over the alleged “non-delivery” of three Jeff Koons sculptures worth millions of dollars has come to an end.
On Friday, collector Steven Tananbaum and Gagosian reached a settlement in a suit over the sculptures, which Tananbaum first brought against the gallery and Koons’s studio in 2018. The lawsuit had become one of the art world’s most high-profile legal actions, and even spurred a second lawsuit involving the alleged non-delivery of Koons’s work to a different collector that has since been settled. The terms of Tananbaum and Gagosian’s settlement were not disclosed, and all claims and counterclaims were dismissed.
“Mr. Tananbaum is a passionate collector, and we look forward to our continuing relationship,” Gagosian gallery and Koons said in a joint statement.
Tananbaum, who ranks on ARTnews‘s Top 200 Collectors list, said in a statement that he “continues to be a proud collector of works by Mr. Koons, whom he considers one of
the most important living artists today,” and that “Gagosian gallery has a terrific program.”
In a suit that alluded to Shakespeare, Ponzi schemes, and art-market wrongdoing, Tananbaum accused the artist and his gallery of being a part of a system that seeks to “exploit art collectors’ desire to own Jeff Koons sculptures.” He claimed that he had made $13 million in payments for three Koons sculptures over the course of several years, but because Gagosian and the artist’s studio allegedly kept pushing the delivery date for the works, he became doubtful of whether he would receive the pieces. Among the works he had agreed to buy was Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), 2013–15, which was to be more than eight feet tall upon fabrication.
“The archaic system, once all of the obfuscations are stripped away, exposes a garden-variety, interest-free, fraudulent financial routine that harkens the name Ponzi. New money is used to pay old obligations, not to mention that the archaic System is one that oversold the artist’s capacity. Ponzi meets The Producers,” Tananbaum’s suit read.
After the suit was filed, Gagosian defended delaying the Koons works by saying that the artist is a “perfectionist” and calling Tananbaum’s demands to be released from the agreements to buy the works he had signed “imperious.”
Shortly after Tananbaum’s suit was filed, Hollywood producer Joel Silver also sued Gagosian gallery, alleging that he, too, had yet to receive a Koons sculpture that he had agreed to buy. (Koons’s studio was not named as a defendant in Joel’s complaint.) After it was revealed that collector Ronald Perelman—who himself had sued Gagosian in 2012, alleging that the gallery had unfairly inflated prices for works by Koons, Cy Twombly, and others—was financing Silver’s suit, the collector and the gallery reached a settlement. Silver had agreed to buy the work, a 2013–15 sculpture called Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels, in 2014 for $8 million. Alongside the settlement came news that Silver would, indeed, purchase the work after all.
A representative for Tananbaum declined to comment on whether Tananbaum still planned to purchase the three Koons works mentioned in suit.
The news is not the only major art-world development involving Tananbaum in recent months. In October, protestors demonstrated in front of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Tananbaum is a board member, claiming that, through the collector’s New York–based asset management firm GoldenTree Asset Management, he owns $2.5 billion in debt from Puerto Rico. Seven were arrested at that protest, including New York politician Melissa Mark-Viverito.