Nightclub Loses $4 Million Suit Over Trashed Tobias Rehberger Work

Owners say the installation was destroyed without their permission.

Tobias Rehberger in his Schirn Kunsthalle retrospective in Fall 2013 Photo: Alex Kraus via Die Welt
Tobias Rehberger in his Schirn Kunsthalle retrospective in Fall 2013 Photo: Alex Kraus via Die Welt

 

Tobias Rehberger in his Schirn Kunsthalle retrospective in Fall 2013 Photo: Alex Kraus via Die Welt

Tobias Rehberger in his Schirn Kunsthalle retrospective in Fall 2013
Photo: Alex Kraus via Die Welt

A Frankfurt court rejected a lawsuit by two former nightclub owners over the destruction of an installation by Tobias Rehberger, on Wednesday. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the pair were seeking damages of €2.95 million ($3.9 million) from DekaBank, the owner of the building in which their club had been located and the financial services arm of German Sparkasse, the country’s public banking system, with managed assets of over €160 billion ($211 billion).

The artwork in question was a set of chairs Rehberger designed for the nightclub and which had been specially arranged to form a smoking section. It was destroyed in 2012 after the owners fell behind on their rent and were eventually evicted from the premises.

Before the court, both owners reportedly contended that they were not let back in to the building and thus could not remove the artwork.

However, DekaBank’s representatives successfully argued that they were neither made aware of the value of Rehberger’s installation nor to whom it belonged during any of their meetings with the former nightclub owners. In fact, it took the owners six months to accuse the bank of having destroyed the artwork.

DekaBank representatives were also reportedly in contact with Rehberger via post yet remained unable to determine the artwork’s rightful owner.

Rehberger declined to comment when contacted by artnet News, clarifying that he had no direct involvement in the lawsuit and had no further information about why the judge had rejected the nightclub owners’ claim.

The artist has created numerous installations for bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, particularly in his hometown of Frankfurt but also at international locales such as in the Venice Biennale’s cafe in the Giardini and at the Hotel Americano during Frieze New York 2013.

Following Wednesday’s decision, the bank expressed their pleasure with the verdict to the FAZ, calling the lawsuit “baseless.” The club owners claimed that they would seek to appeal the verdict.


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