Danh Vo, Bert Kreuk, and Isabella Bortolozzi Settle Dispute after Bitter Two-Year Legal Battle
The resolution represents an unconditional withdrawal of all claims.
After a protracted legal battle of two years, the artist Danh Vo and the collector Bert Kreuk have reached a settlement that puts an end to the dispute that began in 2013 over a site-specific installation which was meant to be displayed at an exhibition of Kreuk’s collection in the Netherlands.
ARTnews reports that the three parties, which includes Vo’s former Berlin gallerist Isabella Bortolozzi, have agreed to withdraw their claims relating to Kreuk’s 2013 breach of contract lawsuit and ensuing ramifications. The negotiations took place over six hours yesterday.
“This settlement puts an end to a case that, regardless of fault, I and many of us in the art world have experienced as negative,” Kreuk told artnet News via email this morning. “Although I will not comment on the details of the settlement, the mere existence of it shows parties desire to move on. That is in itself is a positive conclusion to this case.”
When contacted by artnet News for comment, Vo simply stated that the resolution is an “unconditional withdrawal of all claims,” meaning that no money or artworks were exchanged between the parties.
The conflict began in 2013, when Kreuk, who already owned small-scale works by Vo, was asked to curate an exhibition of his own collection at the at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. The space was big and with Vo’s star shining brightly, Kreuk, via Bortolozzi, invited the artist to create a large-scale, site-specific installation for the show, which was titled “Transforming the Known.”
After a preliminary visit to the museum in January 2013, Kreuk claimed he thought they had agreed that Vo would make a piece for the show, which Kreuk would then buy for $350,000. Meanwhile, Vo, according to court documents referred to this interaction as “flirting.” “If you are meeting a collector of course there is always the possibility that it comes to a purchase,” Vo said, but “there was no mention of details of an agreement.”
As the exhibition opening approached, Vo didn’t deliver the new large-scale piece, sending a small existing “box work” instead, entitled Fiat Veritas, for reasons not entirely clear (being put off by Kreuk’s reputation as an art-flipper might be one, or Vo’s father suffering an aneurysm just before the exhibition, another).
In September 2014, Kreuk sued the artist, demanding $1.2 million for damages to his reputation, although he mentioned that he would be satisfied if Vo simply produced and delivered the artwork.
In June 2015, Kreuk won the suit at a Dutch court, as the judge found there was sufficient evidence that the artist and Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie settled with Kreuk on the purchase of such work in 2013.
The court then ordered Vo to produce an artwork within one year. Moreover, Vo and Bortolozzi would have to pay a joint penalty of €10,000 a day for late delivery, with the maximum set at €350,000.
Vo said he would comply, and in a letter sent to artnet News exclusively in July, he revealed the peculiar details of the work:
For your residence in Panama as well as in room 38 of Gemeentemuseum, I will have my father Phung Vo execute a site specific wall work, in which he writes out the following sentence indicated below; it is a line delivered by the demon from the film ‘The Exorcist’, which – as you may know – constitutes a source of inspiration for my latest body of work. You may voice your preferences with regard to its design (as far as a selection of fonts and colors are concerned) and manifestation to the extent it will become as impressive and large as you find fitting for the amount of $350,000:
SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS, YOU FAGGOT
A few days later, Kreuk replied to Vo, also exclusively via artnet News, saying:
I find any offensive language and discriminating statements relating to gender, orientation, race, and religion (intended or not) very inappropriate. It is not something I want in my collection or on my walls.
I suggest you find another sentence, for instance from the film Rite of Exorcism that reads: “FROM ANGER, HATRED, AND ALL ILL WILL.”
He also recommended Vo to relieve his “frustration” by donating to charity, rather than by making offensive work.
If your aim is however to make offensive works out of “self-imposed” frustration, or if they are meant to prove some kind of point beyond your conceptual practice, then the resulting works are, in my opinion, not made with the right artistic intention or ambition. When you reach that conclusion, I suggest that instead you donate $350,000 to good causes or the equivalent in art to a Dutch or American museum. I will do the same with another $350,000. So $700,000 total to good causes; a cure for any frustration!
Bortolozzi and Vo parted ways in September 2014, amid the legal battle, although the gallery remained involved in the lawsuit proceedings until yesterday’s resolution.
With the settlement, one of the most public and high-profile feuds in recent times between an artist, an art collector, and a gallerist finally comes to an end. In this instance at least, and for better or worse, the much-invoked lack of transparency in art world dealings has been exposed.
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