A London Court Fined an Art Dealer $142,700 for Losing a Bosco Sodi Work That a Judge Likened to a ‘Burnt Digestive Biscuit’

The dealer Esparanza Koren claims to not know the whereabouts of the abstract painting.

The artist Bosco Sodi. Photo courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery.

A London court has ordered an art dealer to pay £111,000 ($142,711) to a Barcelona-based gallery over a missing artwork by Mexican artist Bosco Sodi, which a judge described as “a burnt digestive biscuit.”

The gallery Principal Art had filed a lawsuit against the dealer, Esparanza Koren, over the work Untitled in Red (2011), seeking £85,700 ($110,063), The Guardian reported.

Sodi made the roughly eight-foot-wide abstract painting using sawdust, wood pulp, natural fibers, water, and glue as well as pigment. His New York studio shared photos of similar works in an Instagram post the same day the verdict was revealed.

Koren had briefly represented the gallery and was loaned a number of paintings, including the Sodi work, to exhibit in 2012, but was asked to return them when the show was unsuccessful. The gallery said the Sodi painting was not among the works returned.

The art dealer at one point had offered to buy the work for €100,000 ($110,134) in a WhatsApp message when asked by the gallery if she knew where the painting was, The Evening Standard reported. At the trial, held at the Central London County Court, Koren said her messages did not amount to an agreement and that she did not have the money.

“Where is this painting? I want to know where the painting is at the moment. It belongs to them, so where is it?” the judge, Alan Saggerson, questioned Koren during the trial, adding that the painting was overpriced. “It is clear that you agreed to buy this painting for €100,000.”

“It would seem to have the appearance of a burnt digestive biscuit,” Saggerson added of the work. “This is of value to some in some quarters of the world.”

Koren responded that she did not know where the painting was. The roughly $142,711 fine she was ordered to pay includes the roughly $110,134 value which she had previously offered to pay, plus interest and other costs.

“I do find it extraordinary that the defendant affects to have no recollection whatsoever of the whereabouts of the painting, where it ended up and with whom,” said the judge.

“The inevitable inference is that she used it as security for other debts and has lost track of its whereabouts. Her submissions have such a hollow ring.”

When reached by Artnet News, Sodi offered no comment on the verdict, but said of the Saggerson’s critique: “Of course, anyone can describe, feel, or understand my work as they want.”


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