Real Housewife Accused of Extorting Artist
Former Real Housewives of New York City cast member Aviva Drescher and her husband Reid are being sued by a Long Island artist who claims the pair are holding his artworks hostage in exchange for a commission from the sale of one of the paintings they agreed to display in their Upper West Side apartment during the taping of the show, reports Courthouse News. Drescher was fired from the Bravo reality show earlier this month, after dramatically throwing her prosthetic leg across the room at Le Cirque during the series’ sixth season finale.
Matthew Satz of Amagansett claims that he agreed to install five of his paintings at the Dreschers’ in June of 2013. Aside from nominal delivery and installation charges, he lent the couple the artwork free of charge, under the assumption that the show would provide him with valuable national exposure. Later, one of the Dreschers’ friends tried to buy his work Pink Smoke Painting for $50,000. Though the collector paid a deposit for the piece, Satz was unable to complete the sale because Drescher would not give the painting back unless she received a commission.
According to the complaint, Salz told Drescher that “if she or her husband were expecting any type of financial compensation or commission relating to any of the artworks that had been loaned to them then that was something that they should have discussed with Plaintiff beforehand, not after he sold a piece.” Drescher’s husband then suggested increasing the sticker price to $60,000, and giving them the difference.
Understandably, Satz “was not at all comfortable doing that, and that he viewed it [as] being dishonest,” but Drescher insisted that the collector could afford it. When Satz refused to budge, the Dreschers reduced their commission demand to $5,000, but continued to refuse to return the work. The artist accuses the reality stars of attempting to extort him, holding his work hostage, and demanding a ransom. He seeks $120,524 in compensatory damages and more than $500,000 in punitive damages.
Drescher’s version of the story is predictably very different. She told the Post that “I asked Matt to remove the artwork on Friday immediately, and he didn’t do so. That’s all there is to say. There’s no story here. He didn’t remove his art when I asked him to.”
“The guy is a crazy artist. He works out of his basement,” she added in an interview with the Daily News. “He’s not operating on a full deck.”
UPDATE: Satz’s attorney, Andrew J. Weinstein, provided this comment to artnet News regarding Drescher’s claims:
Ms. Drescher’s published statement suggesting that the works were made available to be picked up by Mr. Satz at her apartment last Friday is deceptive at best. What she conveniently fails to mention is that Mr. Satz’s retrieval of his own paintings was strictly conditioned on him showing up to the apartment with a bank check in order gain access, and also giving the Dreschers two of the five paintings at issue free of charge.
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