Collector David Mirvish Is Suing Knoedler Gallery, But Not for the Reasons Everyone Else Is

Knoedler Gallery just can’t catch a break. On Friday, Canadian collector David Mirvish filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan against the formerly esteemed Upper East Side institution, which closed in late 2011 amid allegations of selling forged works of art, after he bought three of the questionable Jackson Pollock works with the gallery and then did not see a return on his investment. According to the New York Times, this is the fifth lawsuit against the gallery since 2011, all connected to artworks purchased by Knoedler (and in this case, Mirvish) from Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales.

This case is different than the others in that Mirvish is not claiming that the works in question are forged. Instead, he says they are real, and because two of them went unsold before the gallery closed, Knoedler owes him money two Pollock paintings it current has in its possession for breach of contract. The Canadian theater producer has been an extra thorn in the side of the gallery since Knoedler was originally sued by collector and hedge fund manager Pierre Lagrange, who bought a $17 million Pollock from the gallery five years ago and later suspected that it might be a forgery.

The Lagrange Pollack and two others were originally purchased jointly by Mirvish and Knoedler with the intent of profit-sharing when the gallery resold the works, and both parties made several million dollars off the Lagrange deal*.  However, when the gallery settled with Lagrange after the lawsuit, Mirvish was not involved and refused to give his portion of the Pollock profits back, according to a May 2012 Vanity Fair story.

Now, Mirvish not only wants his money back, but he wants his paintings, too. From the Times:

Now Mr. Mirvish contends in his lawsuit that his purchase of the works attributed to Pollock was based on the assumption that Knoedler was “actively marketing and attempting to sell the paintings in an effort to realize a profit for both Mirvish and Knoedler.” When the gallery suddenly went out of business, Mr. Mirvish says, it breached its agreement. He is demanding that Knoedler turn over the two paintings he bought — referred to as “Greenish Pollock” and “Square Pollock” — as well as reimburse him for his $1.6 million investment in “Silver Pollock.”

Although Mr. Mirvish paid Knoedler only half of “Greenish Pollock’s” $2.5 million purchase price and half of “Square Pollock’s” $4 million price — or a total $3.25 million — he contends that Knoedler’s breach of contract automatically entitles him to possess the paintings.

ARTINFO has not yet obtained a copy of the lawsuit, but from what we do know, one of the more interesting details of this new case is that former gallery president Ann Freedman is not named as a defendant, as she has been in all the other lawsuits related to this scandal. In fact, Mirvish is being represented by Freedman’s lawyer, Nicholas Gravante.

Shane Ferro

* It’s worth noting that another of the Knoedler lawsuits, filed by financier John D. Howard, alleges that the extraordinarily low prices paid for the works from Rosales — those low prices being the reason for the Mirvish/Knoedler investment deal — should have been a red flag for the gallery regarding authenticity from the beginning.