Apr 19, 2018

A major collector filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Jeff Koons LLC and Gagosian Gallery for the non-delivery of three sculptures.

Collector Steven Tananbaum, listed as one of the Top 200 collectors by ARTnews filed a lengthy and colorful complaint against Koons and Gagosian in New York Supreme Court on Thursday. Tananbaum alleges that the artist and his gallery violated contractual agreements in relation to three sculptures purchased by the collector between 2013 and 2017. The works Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Magenta), Eros, and Diana originally carried approximate completion dates of December 2015, January 2019, and August 2019, respectively. But the fabrication date for Venus and Eros were pushed back, as was the creation of a preview edition of the Diana sculpture, which Tananbaum was scheduled to view in October to determine if he wanted to complete his purchase of his version of that work or receive a refund, the complaint charges. The delays occurred without specific explanation, photo-evidence of work in the process of creation, or the promise of a set delivery date, according to the complaint. In the most extreme case, the Venus work was repeatedly delayed and now carries an estimated completion time of 70 months from the purchase date, more than twice the initial estimate of 27 months. So far, Tananbaum has paid of $13 million collectively for the sculptures—a sum that he could lose if he canceled the purchases—and still does not have a concrete completion date for the works, despite other new works being created by Koons during this time, the complaint claims. Tananbaum also argued the defendants in the case failed to disclose where the works were being fabricated along with other information required under New York arts and culture law. Collectors wishing to snap up a Koons sculpture often pay millions for work estimated to be created years in the future. It is considered worth the wait, given the value of his pieces. But the Tananbaum complaint, which pulls the curtain back on the intricacies of the deals, argues this system “harkens the name Ponzi” and that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” A similar lawsuit filed against Koons and David Zwirner in 2016, in which a collector claimed Koons failed to deliver the correct edition of a purchased sculpture in a timely matter, was settled out of court. A representative for Koons’ studio declined to comment to ARTnews, and Gagosian could not be reached for comment.