Art Market

A judge threw out a $20-million lawsuit against glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Wallace Ludel
Jun 24, 2019 5:02PM, via Associated Press

Dale Chihuly. Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images.

A judge in Seattle has thrown out a lawsuit, first filed in 2017, by a contractor who claimed to be owed upwards of $20 million for his contributions to glass artist Dale Chihuly’s work.

Michael Moi, the contract worker behind the suit, alleged that he and Chihuly first met in 1999 aboard Chihuly’s boat, the Meteor, through a mutual acquaintance. Soon thereafter, Moi was hired to do contract work such as repairing roofs on homes owned by Chihuly.

The suit detailed how Moi was then invited by Chihuly and his assistants to take part in “myriad clandestine painting sessions.” Moi said he worked on 285 paintings between 1999 and 2014, and it is because of these paintings that he was owed more than $20 million.

Chihuly responded with a counterclaim in which the lawyers detailed the artist’s deteriorating mental state before referring to the lawsuit as “nothing more than an ugly and reprehensible display of opportunism and exploitation.” The counterclaim also said that Moi was in possession of documents that detailed Chihuly’s personal issues, stating that “under the thin guise of this litigation, Mr. Moi is threatening to make such documents public as purported ‘evidence’ in his lawsuit unless Dale, his family, and Chihuly Inc. pay him $21 million for his silence.”

Moi’s suit against Chihuly stated that Moi never formally became an employee of Chihuly’s, nor did he sign any type of contract, rather that he was “repeatedly and consistently” told he would receive future compensation, and ensured that Chihuly would “take care of him.” The suit goes into great detail about the complicated painting process, which involved multiple assistants. Chihuly has long had a great number of assistants aid in the fabrication of his work, and the artist has not personally blown glass since a 1979 bodysurfing accident.

According to the New York Times, a judge ruled last week that “Moi had failed to demonstrate what his contributions to any paintings were or that he should be considered a co-author of them” and that Chihuly’s promise to Moi to “take care of him” was, if true, too ambiguous to enforce in a court of law.

Wallace Ludel