Jeff Koons Revealed as Mystery Artist at Heart of $6 Million Lawsuit Against David Zwirner

The lawsuit alleges "chicanery" and a game of "three-card monte."

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden), 2013. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery.
Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden), 2013.

Jeff Koons has been revealed as the “world-renowned artist” behind a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against New York and London dealer David Zwirner. The work in question is a version of the 2013 sculpture Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden). While the original suit claimed $2 million in damages, an amended complaint now claims $6 million.

A new complaint by Old Master dealer Fabrizio Moretti filed Wednesday claims that Zwirner engaged in “chicanery” and played a game of “three-card monte” with the various editions of the sculpture. It alleges “many flagrant and knowing violations” of the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, which provides that “a purchaser has a right to be given as much information about the piece of sculpture as is known to the seller.”

According to the amended complaint, at the heart of the issue is that Zwirner promised Moretti the second work in an edition of three-plus-an-artist’s-proof (AP), but then attempted to sell him “the last of the numbered casts more than two years later with other casts receiving different numbers or dubbed ‘prototypes.’” It points out that a version of the work was offered at auction “purportedly numbered ‘3,’ even though it was fabricated and released more than a year before the cast absurdly offered to Plaintiff as number ‘2’.”

“The law is very strict,” Moretti’s lawyer, New York attorney John Cahill, told artnet News by phone. “If you say it’s an edition of one of four, you can’t hide that there is an additional sculpture by calling it a ‘prototype.’ The law was passed, in part, because it was recognized that buyers of art were spending real money for sculptures and looking also to ‘investment value.'”

The amended complaint also maintains that Zwirner promised delivery in a year or less; while that promise does not appear in writing, Cahill tells artnet News that was a verbal agreement.

Fabrizio Moretti. Photo Patrick McMullan.

Fabrizio Moretti. Photo Patrick McMullan.

“The lawsuit is entirely meritless,” a spokeswoman for David Zwirner told artnet News via email. “The gallery had already moved to dismiss the case and the recent amended allegations are also absolutely baseless. The client has declined delivery of the artwork, which is completed and ready for pickup. Unfortunately he has been attempting to use the court system as a negotiating tactic.”

A version of the work failed to sell at Sotheby’s New York in May 2015 after being estimated at $1.8–$2.5 million, helping to inspire Moretti’s claim that the work’s value was damaged. “Zwirner has admitted that the failure of the [work] to sell at auction was ‘disturbing and embarrassing,’” the plaintiff alleges in the complaint.

While the sculpture exhibited was identified as edition 1, a new email from Zwirner says that it was a prototype and that Koons has placed no limitation on the size of the edition. “The email functions as an admission of Defendants’ guilt and liability to Plaintiff,” Cahill writes in the complaint.


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