NEW YORK—A two-year-long legal action by Manhattan art collector and gallery-backer Jean-Pierre Lehmann against art dealer Christian Haye, co-owner of The Project gallery on 57th Street, was resolved Nov. 8. The terms of the settlement are confidential, although the agreement “does not involve any payment of money from The Project to Mr. Lehmann,” according to a statement released by Lehmann’s New York City attorney Peter R. Stern. A source familiar with the settlement said that artwork, particularly the paintings of Julie Mehretu, which had been at the heart of the dispute between the collector and dealer, may have been awarded to Lehmann. Stern had no comment on what was entailed in the settlement.
T he dispute between Lehmann and The Project arose in late 2003, two years after the collector had made a $75,000 loan to the gallery, expecting to be repaid through gaining head-of-the-line rights to purchase the artwork of Ethiopian-born Mehretu at discounted prices. He didn’t get as many of the artist’s works as he had hoped and brought a breach-of-contract lawsuit against The Project that he won last March in New York State Supreme Court. That court awarded Lehmann $1.7 million in damages (see ANL, 3/15/05).
At the time of the decision, Stern stated that Lehmann, who holds dual French and Swiss citizenship and maintains homes in both Geneva and New York City, might be willing to negotiate a settlement with the gallery that could yet involve obtaining works by Mehretu. “Mr. Lehmann’s objective has never been money,” Stern said. “Mr. Lehmann continues to hope that he will become the owner of first-rate paintings by Julie Mehretu. That has been his objective all along.”
After the March 2 ruling, Haye closed The Project and reopened in the same location (representing the same artists) as a new gallery called Projectile, which his attorney Gregory Clarick believed would not be liable for the $1.7 million settlement.