Art Dealer Perry Rubenstein Pleads No Contest in Michael Ovitz Theft Trial

He faces up to 180 days in jail and will have to pay restitution.

Perry Rubenstein. Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Los Angeles art dealer Perry Rubenstein has pleaded no contest to two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement for failing to pay clients including Hollywood tycoon Michael Ovitz, reports the Los Angeles Times. Art collector Michael Salke also claimed Rubenstein defrauded him.

Rubenstein could get up to 180 days in jail when he’s sentenced on May 22, and he’ll have to pay restitution. Variety reports that the judge will order Rubenstein to pay some $1.14 million, but that he’s expected to pay just $167,500.

At the heart of the case were works by Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

Rubenstein sold two Prince works for Ovitz, one for less than the agreed minimum, and kept the payment. Ovitz took insurer Chartis Property Casualty to court to get reimbursed $2.5 million for an untitled Prince painting and $1.6 million for Nobody’s Home, per court papers consulted by the LA Times.

Salke sold the Murakami work via Rubenstein. The buyer, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, had paid $825,000 for the piece, but Rubenstein told Salke that the foundation had paid just $630,000. The facts came out, as it happens, after Salke brought suit when Rubenstein tried to add $20,000 to his commission, reported the LA Times at the time. Rubenstein was arrested in April 2016.

His eponymous Hollywood gallery, opened in 2012, filed for bankruptcy in 2014, indicating that the gallery’s assets were up to $1 million but that its liabilities were as much as $10 million. The dealer, who owed money to the IRS, street artist Shepard Fairey, and the powerful New York attorney Aaron Richard Golub, assured artnet News at the time that he intended to resolve his credit issues.

Rubenstein had his beginnings in New York, where he had worked as a dealer beginning in the 1980s, and opened a gallery on 23rd Street in 2004. He worked with artists including Kamrooz Aram, Iwan Baan, Zoe Crosher, Georg Herold, Richard Woods, and Amir Zaki.

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