Artist Frank Bowling Is Locked in a Bitter Legal Battle With His Longtime Gallery Hales Over Alleged Failure to Pay

The artist and the gallery are suing each other in London's High Court

Frank Bowling, 2019. Photo by Mathilde Agius.

The artist Frank Bowling, known for his distinctively soft color palette and a style that fuses abstraction with personal memories, has entered into a tangled legal battle with his longtime gallery Hales.

The 86-year old artist said that he terminated his relationship with Hales, which began showing Bowling in 2011, last October “because they had not paid me a large amount of money they owed me,” he said in a statement. Bowling sued the gallery in London’s High Court and the gallery has since struck back with a countersuit.

Bowling said he left because the gallery could not give him a proper account of what was owed to him. “The feeling that they had taken advantage of me is reinforced by the extraordinary demands they are now making for vast sums of money, while holding to ransom my own paintings,” according to his statement.

Hales, which operates galleries in London and New York, did not respond to a request for comment.

The gallery alleged that Bowling’s sons are trying to wrestle control of the artist legacy from his wife, Rachel Scott, according to the Evening Standard. Its countersuit seeks up to $18.3 million (£14 million) in lost commissions and damages.

Frank Bowling, Beggar No. 3 (1963).

Bowling adds that the gallery still has possession of about 110 works and that he is owed more than $2.3 million (£1.8 million) for past sales of his work. He says he does not know where the paintings are but believes they are in storage in London and New York.

The artist was born in British Guyana in 1934 and moved to London in 1953. He graduated from the Royal College of Art and later moved to New York, where he continued to experiment with techniques including staining and collage. In 2019, Bowling was the subject of a solo retrospective at Tate Britain.

The Artnet Price Database lists 55 results for Bowling’s work at auction. The current record is $872,114 (£695,250) paid last June at Christie’s London for a painting from 1963, titled Beggar 3.

Bowling’s attorney Tim Bignell said that the artist severed the relationship with Hales because of “serious breaches” in their agreement, including failure to account for funds received for sales of his work, despite Bowling’s requests. The Bowling family is united in support of Frank’s determination to see his work returned to him,” Bignell added.

“I’ve been a practicing artist for more than 60 years,” Bowling says in the statement, “and while I am grateful to all those who have supported me in my journey to recognition, my art works and personal toil speak for my success.”

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