An Artist Is Suing the Hole Gallery and Mamacha Cafe for Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Unpaid Fees and Lost Art

The Hole's owner says the gallery had nothing to do with the debacle.

Dan Lam, Getting Soft (2018). The artist is suing The Hole gallery and Mamacha cafe. Courtesy of the artist.

The Dallas-based artist Dan Lam is suing the Hole and Mamacha, a matcha cafe that operates within the New York City gallery, for allegedly failing to pay her for sculptures they sold during a 2018 exhibition, for failing to return unsold ones, and for damaging others.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the New York State Supreme Court, says that Lam showed 60 of her neon foam and resin sculptures in April 2018 for the inaugural show at the hybrid gallery and cafe, and that the works were also offered for sale on the Hole’s e-commerce website.

Lam says she only received $6,000 of the nearly $36,000 she is owed for the eight works that were sold, four that were damaged, and nine that have gone missing.

“Unfortunately, companies and galleries taking advantage of artists is becoming an all too common occurrence,” said Lam’s attorney, Andrew Gerber of the firm Kushnirsky Gerber, in an email to artnet News. “Artists should know that they can stand up for their rights and fight back, as we are doing here for Ms. Lam.”

Lam says she repeatedly requested information about sales and the whereabouts of her works, but Mamacha only provided a report filled with discrepancies, while the Hole’s website didn’t accurately reflect sales. By November, Mamacha stopped responding to Lam and her lawyers say their letters to both parties have gone unanswered.

Representatives for Mamacha did not respond to requests for comment. Kathy Grayson, owner of the Hole, told artnet News that Lam is not represented by the gallery and that Mamacha is not a business partner but a tenant leasing space from the gallery.

“Any fiscal relationship was between Dan and Mamacha only. We didn’t earn commission on sales, we didn’t know Dan wasn’t paid. We are obviously very disappointed in the business practices of our tenant, and are especially sensitive to artists being paid in a timely and complete manner,” Grayson said in an email.

“We recommended Dan to the new matcha shop to be their first featured artist in their art cafe project,” she added. “Just due to proximity, we wanted them both to succeed and offered help in promotional ways. We let them have a button on our shop website where they posted their pieces, for example.”

Lam’s lawyer, however, said that the Hole is rightfully named a defendant in the lawsuit because “the exhibition of Ms. Lam’s works was produced by both Mamacha and the Hole and her works were consigned to both parties. The works were also displayed and sold on the Hole’s website.”

Lam is seeking the remaining balance she is owed, repayment of Mamacha’s commission, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

This is not the first time Mamacha has faced legal action. In October, the Museum of Modern Art forced the business to change its name from Momacha, and to drop its MoMA-like logo, after the museum claimed copyright infringement.

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