Priska C. Juschka Fine Art Gets Sued

by Paddy Johnson on April 6, 2011 · 14 comments Newswire

Dana Melamed's Black Tide at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art. Sept. 2010

Priska C. Juschka Fine Art has been sued by one of her artists in Federal Court. According to CourtHouse News Service, Dana Melamed claims the 27th Street Chelsea gallery owes her more than $68,000 in consignment sales. She also says the gallery discounted pieces without her permission, and refuses to return works worth upwards of $400,000. Seeking actual damages of at least $68,825, plus $1 million in punitive damages, the artist claims “breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and conversion”.

Melamed, an abstract sculptor who works in sheet metal, film, and Cinefoil, entered what appears to be a fairly typical gallery consignment agreement in June 2005: gallery owners Priska Juschka and Arnold Katzen were to sell Melamed’s works at a mutually-agreed-upon price, and would take a 50 percent commission. They agreed to send Melamed her 50 percent within 30 days.

It’s unclear whether the 30 days reflects the date of sale or payment received, but either way, it’s not unusual for a gallery to extend past the agreed period to make payment even if it’s not good business practice. Collectors are slow to pay, gallery overhead is high, staff are busy. But according to Melamed’s claims late payments were the least of her problems. From CourtHouse News Service:

“Specifically, the plaintiff’s art works entitled ‘Temporary cities, No. 1-9,’ ‘Urban Mechanism,’ ‘Driven,’ ‘Post-Human’ (collectively, ‘Art Basel Works’) were sold by defendants to an undisclosed buyer in June 2009 for the total amount of $143,650,” the complaint states.
Melamed says the gallery told her those works sold for only $98,000, and have paid her only $20,000 in installments.
She says the art work is scheduled to be shipped to a buyer in Switzerland.
She adds: “Since 2005, defendants allegedly sold forty-six of the plaintiff’s art works. However, defendants provided Plaintiff with Advices of sales for only 29 art works.”
And, she says: “In addition, in violation of the consignment agreement and without the plaintiff’s written consent, most of her art works sold by the gallery were discounted by defendants.”

Discounts are standard practice in the art world, so unless they were particularly large, Melamed may not get too far with that claim. Priska C. Juschka Fine Art has been ordered to show cause April 15th, so at that point we’ll know more about whether the gallery disputes the number of works sold and money owed.  Certainly, $1 million in punitive damages seems excessive. Then again, so does under-representing the amount a work sold for and still failing to pay the amount owed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502968897 Matt Jones

    Stuff like this, as an artist, is super interesting.

  • Bob

    Discounts are certainly common, but there’s usually an agreement as to how they work. For example, a 10% discount may come totally out of the dealer’s 50% cut. Any additional discounts usually get absorbed by artist and dealer. If the artist did not agree to have the work discounted, then she should be entitled to 50% of the non-discounted price. This could be a bigger deal than you allow.

  • Bob

    Discounts are certainly common, but there’s usually an agreement as to how they work. For example, a 10% discount may come totally out of the dealer’s 50% cut. Any additional discounts usually get absorbed by artist and dealer. If the artist did not agree to have the work discounted, then she should be entitled to 50% of the non-discounted price. This could be a bigger deal than you allow.

  • Liam Davis

    Jade Townsend just left Priska C. Juschka. I suspect an exodus has started.

  • J Braun

    Artists are timid about complaining because we feel so indebted, so concerned about our future, how it could backfire if we even talk negatively about a gallery, even to friends. So I am surprised and I’m glad to see someone stick their neck out. The discount thing, forgetaboutit. But if someone doesn’t tell the actual amount of a sale…that’s low. And not being paid, I think most of us have had some experiences in that dept.

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  • pixl

    We’ll be seeing more stuff like this in the near future. I’m speaking from personal experience. It’s just hasn’t gone public yet.

  • artist

    I sued my Chelsea gallery over the same shit and settled out of court. Galleries don’t have to disclose the buyer to the artist, so the artist must do their own private detective work if they want to catch their dealer cheating them. That’s what I did.

  • John

    They are a shady gallery. I know three other artists who have said they have been screwed by these people.

  • this is my name

    I agree with J Braun, I’m glad artists are putting their foot down. It’s an abusive and corrupt system where the abuse and corruption are the norm. and yes, we are quiet about it because we have very few options. It’s not interesting to me at all, it’s painful, wrong, crazy making and needs to be stopped.

  • Anonymous

    As artist we’re always on the front line when it comes to protecting human right and fight any abuse of power, why is it when it comes to protecting our own rights we fail so miserably?
    until someone is going to break the code of silence, this story is going to repeat itself over and over again – I’m ashamed to say I’m not that artist yet.

  • Jay

    this particular gallery uses intimidation to control everyone around them.  they are not the sort that represents the art world well and i hope this sends them running, with empty wallets, back to wherever they came from.  

    my heart goes out the artist – this has been a never ending nightmare.  she deserves more than 1 million in punitive damages.  

  • http://www.joannemattera.blogspot.com Joanne Mattera

    Thanks for this reporting, Paddy. I will share this with my Marketing Mondays readers.

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