In a case centering on the late artist Robert Indiana‘s work, a majority of counterclaims leveled against the Morgan Art Foundation, which long represented the artist, by Indiana’s estate have been tossed out in a New York district court. The ruling by Judge Barbara Moses dismissed the estate’s claims that the Morgan Art Foundation did not pay the artist royalties owed to him and that the foundation did not have the right to reproduce some of Indiana’s work, including his famed LOVE sculptures. In July 2019, Judge Analisa Torres had dismissed other counterclaims in the suit.
The lawsuit has focused on whether the foundation should be able to oversee the fabrication of works by Indiana, who died in 2018. The original complaint was filed a day before Indiana died, and in it the foundation alleged that Michael McKenzie, founder of American Image Art, and Jamie Thomas, the artist’s assistant and caretaker, had been part of a “scheme to isolate Indiana” and “reap the profits from selling unauthorized and forged works.”
The Morgan Art Foundation claimed it had made two agreements with Indiana in 1999 in which the artist gave the foundation the exclusive right to produce and fabricate his sculptures titled LOVE, AHAVA, AMOR, Numbers, ART, and 2000, as well as the intellectual property rights of the works LOVE, AHAVA, AMOR, Numbers, and YALE.
Judge Moses’s ruling states that allowing the estate to reject those contracts would give it an “unfair advantage” and impose an “unfair detriment” on the Morgan Art Foundation. However, she did not dismiss the estate’s claim that Simon Salama-Caro, an adviser for the Morgan Art Foundation, may owe royalties to the estate for purchases and sales of Indiana’s works.
In a statement, the foundation’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, said that this latest ruling “is a significant victory for Morgan Art Foundation” and “another major leap forward toward protecting Indiana’s legacy and shutting down the gross mismanagement of the Estate.”
Reached by ARTnews, James Brannan, the estate’s attorney, said, “Because the Judge has ruled that we are able to pursue a breach of fiduciary duty claim against Mr. Salama-Caro for his self-dealing at the expense of Robert Indiana, the result will be a significant benefit to the estate of the artist, the Star of Hope Foundation, and the legacy of one of the most important artists in history.”