A 13-year lawsuit over the cardboard frames on three Martin Kippenberger works has finally come to a close. Art collectors Stanley and Gail Hollander filed the suit in 2007, seeking over $90 million in damages from XL Specialty insurance company after an art handler mistakenly began to remove the cardboard frames surrounding the three paintings, not realizing they were an integral part of the works. Almost a decade and a half and millions of dollars in legal fees later, Gail Hollander received $19,500, a sum just under the settlement XL Specialty had offered the couple back in 2007 (Stanley Hollander died in 2016).
According to a report in The Art Newspaper, the Hollanders purchased Copa III, Copa IV, and Copa IX (1986) in 2004 from Gagosian in London for $289,000 total. XL Specialty insured the works in 2005 for $399,000, and the paintings were shipped to the Hollanders’ California home in 2006. After an art handler started to remove the works’ corrugated cardboard frames, mistaking them for packaging, the Hollanders filed a lawsuit. XL Specialty’s contract with the couple enabled them to try to restore the paintings. They contacted Uli Strothjohann, who helped make the original frames for Kippenberger and was able to restore the frames with the cardboard used to make the frames in the first place. The paintings were sold that same year at Sotheby’s in London, but the case did not stop there.
In 2007, the Hollanders filed a bad faith claim against XL Specialty, which, under California law, could entitle them to a small percentage of the value of the insurance company, if proven. A jury trial began in April of 2019, at which time Gail Hollander was seeking a roughly $95-million settlement. For comparison, the auction record for a work by Martin Kippenberger is $22.5 million, set at Christie’s New York in 2014.
“I think what you are looking at here is an attempt to use an insurance policy like an ATM machine,” defense lawyer Gregory Michael MacGregor said in his closing statements, according to TAN. Richard Friedman, the Hollanders’ lawyer, called the case a “13-year corporate temper tantrum” and said he hoped the jury wouldn’t let their personal feelings “about fine art or about rich people” influence their decision.
The jury voted 11 to 1 against the bad faith claim. They voted 9 to 3 in favor of awarding Gail Hollander $19,500 for loss in value. Over 12 years ago, XL Specialty had offered the couple a $19,950 settlement.