Legal Fight Heats Up Over Peter Beard Photo Show in Hamptons

A photo collection allegedly worth $1 million is at the center of the dispute.

Peter Beard, Nejma Beard. ©Patrick McMullan. Photo by Patrick McMullan/PMC.

Star photographer Peter Beard is threatening legal action against an art gallery in East Hampton, New York, that’s planning to open a show of Beard’s photographs on Saturday, July 2. The show is organized by model Natalie White, who sued Beard over possession of some of his photographs, which she allegedly paid to produce.

The show is set to include portraits of numerous models, including model Nina Agdal (who is reportedly dating Leonardo DiCaprio), Pamela Anderson, Derek Jeter’s fiancée Hannah Davis, Chanel Iman, and Alexandra Richards. The photos are priced as high as $150,000.

The venue, Gallery Valentine, is owned by Ryan Ross and his partner Todd Kramer. (Former Sony Records executive Tommy Mottola was addressed in the letter but artnet News learned that he is no longer involved with the gallery).

The letter, from Beard’s New York attorney, Judd B. Grossman, references a June 23 press release touting “Exclusive Never Before Seen PETER BEARD Artworks For Sale.”

Grossman claims that the release “contains several materially false, or at the very least misleading statements about the approximately two dozen pieces (the ‘Giant Polaroids’) that you plan to offer for sale.” It disputes the claim that the works have never before been seen, pointing out that some of them recently sold on the secondary market.

Page Six recently reported that the photos in question had been tied up for years in a legal dispute between Beard and White, and that the case was eventually settled.

Natalie White ©Patrick McMullan. Photo by Liam McMullan/PMC.

Natalie White. Photo by Liam McMullan/Patrick McMullan.

Grossman addresses this in the letter, saying, “We are troubled by your claim that ’25 of the artworks were provided to [Natalie] White in a lawsuit settlement with Beard. … As an initial matter, the terms of the Court-endorsed settlement are strictly confidential. So if Ms. White provided you information about the settlement terms, then she has breached that mandatory confidentiality. Your publication of any such statements would therefore render you complicit in her breaches … for which Mr. Beard and the Studio will seek to hold you liable.”

According to Page Six, White claimed in a 2014 lawsuit that she spent $100,000 to produce the photographs, in return for 50 of the works, but that Beard’s wife, Nejma, blocked the deal.

The Observer reported on June 30 that plans for the show are “moving forward” despite the letter.

A major solo show of Beard’s work, “Last Word From Paradise,” is currently on view at Guild Hall in East Hampton (through July 31).

“We’re moving ahead with the show,” gallery partner Todd Kramer told artnet News via telephone. “These works were purchased privately. The owner wants to sell them. It’s an unauthorized show, it has nothing to do with his Guild Hall show. It has nothing to do with Peter. These are owned by a private party and the party wants to sell them. We’re a secondary gallery.”

Grossman further criticized Ross and Mottola for their attempts to “insinuate a connection between your small-time show and Mr. Beard’s major Guild Hall solo exhibition. Of course there is no relationship between your spectacle and Mr. Beard’s museum show—even the New York Post is observant enough to recognize that at best the timing is pure ‘coincidence.'” The press release says that “additional works” by Beard are on view at Guild Hall.

Grossman urges Gallery Valentine to “reconsider your plans to proceed with your show,” asserting that the owners’ promotional efforts have “already have violated federal copyright law, and likely a federal-Court endorsed settlement.” Beard is considering seeking “immediate injunctive relief … as well as monetary damages based on your false publications and copyright infringements,” says Grossman.

The gallery’s website does not have an exhibition schedule or any information about the show. It has a lengthy list of artists, though Beard’s name does not appear among them.

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