Artist Tobias Rehberger to Take Stand at Trial Over Destroyed Nightclub Installation

The club owners are seeking $3.3 million compensation.

The German artist Tobias Rehberger will take the stand as a witness in a trial that starts next week in a dispute over the destruction of an installation he did for a nightclub. The piece was destroyed when the nightclub was shut down by a bank.

Four years ago, WestInvest, the real estate subsidiary of the Deka Bank, shut down the Frankfurt-based dance music venue NuSoul after the owners Ysheitla and Mengstu Zeleke came into arrears with their rent.

The brothers allege that WestInvest discarded or sold off the club’s interior and fixtures, which also included an installation by Rehberger. They are seeking €3 million ($3.3 million) in damages for the artwork, although Rehberger confirmed that he had given the Zelekes the piece as a gift.

The artwork in question was a set of chairs Rehberger designed for the nightclub in his signature colorful, striped style and which had been specially arranged to form a smoking section.

Tobias Rehberger Untitled (2011) Photo: Pilar Corrias, London

Tobias Rehberger Untitled (2011)
Photo: Pilar Corrias, London

According to Frankfurter Neue Presse, while the club’s furniture was acquired by several other nightclub owners and now decorates a number of bars and discotheques in the city center, Rehberger’s artwork ended up in the garbage.

The artist was outraged, and eventually received an apology from the bank following national media coverage of the ungraceful disposal of his installation piece.

The brothers’ first attempt in 2014 to secure damages for the art work’s destruction was unsuccessful. However, they said they said they felt “relaxed” about the upcoming trial at the Frankfurt Court of Appeals.

The DekaBank has pledged to make a donation to a cultural institution. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The DekaBank has pledged to make a donation to a cultural institution.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

At a conciliation appointment in August 2015, the judge suggested that Deka Bank should make a donation to compensate for the destruction of Rehberger’s artwork.

The case seemed to be settled when the Zelekes welcomed the suggestion and the bank’s lawyer hinted that such an agreement would also be in the interest of his client.

Yet after several months of silence, the bank announced “Deka notified the court and the opposing party in August that we will not reach a settlement because we want the plaintiff’s false allegations to be clarified and resolved in court.” The bank added that it would still make a donation to a Frankfurt cultural institution nevertheless.

And so the case continues, and Rehberger has been called as a witness at the trial which starts next week. The star artist’s works are in demand across the world, and ironically, the Deka Bank also has a number of his works in its corporate collection.

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