“Art-Flipper” Bert Kreuk Sues Artist Danh Vo for $1.2 Million

The Hugo Boss Prize-winner refused to deliver an artwork to the collector.

Bert Kreuk Photo: Courtesy Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, via Art Daily
Bert Kreuk
Photo: Courtesy Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, via Art Daily

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article erroneously claimed that Kreuk had paid Vo $350,000 for an artwork. Nowhere in Kreuk’s lawsuit does he claim to have paid Vo $350,000. artnet News apologizes for this error, and any confusion or damage it may have caused.

Major art collector and polarizing figure Bert Kreuk has sued Danish-Vietnamese artist and Hugo Boss Prize winner Danh Vo for €898,000 (approximately $1.2 million), according to a report in the Netherland’s RTL Nieuws. Kreuk claims that Vo failed to deliver an artwork for “Transforming the Known,” an exhibition of his collection at the Hague’s Gemeentemuseum (Hague Municipal Museum) that closed in September of last year.

The sum the collector is seeking in court reportedly corresponds to alleged damage to his reputation from Vo failing to deliver the piece. Vo’s lawyer confirmed the suit to the paper and suggested that the court case could be lengthy. A representative for Kreuk told RTL Nieuws that the collector would be satisfied if Vo simply produced and delivered the artwork, but that the artist appears unwilling to do so.

Though the motivations behind Vo’s refusal to make the work remain unclear, speculation suggests it could well be due to Kreuk’s increasingly controversial stock in the art world as a serious collector. Fellow collector Alain Servais categorized Kreuk as “an art-flipper more toxic than [Stefan] Simchowitz” in a response to the story on Twitter.

Kreuk has been open about his views on art as a viable asset class, and has banked on those views, sending many in the art world into a frenzy. Most notably, Kreuk sold 11 works from the Hague exhibition in a Sotheby’s New York auction last fall. In that sale, according to the artnet Price Database, Vo’s Alphabet (M) (2011) sold for $149,000 including premium on a $60,000–90,000 estimate.

Danh Vo, Alphabet (M) (2011) Via: artnet Price Database

Danh Vo, Alphabet (M) (2011)
Via: artnet Price Database

Kreuk subsequently brought 29 further works to Sotheby’s London‘s S|2 gallery for a commercial show he curated, Just Now, earlier this year. According to Sotheby’s the exhibition also included one work by Vo, Alphabet (B) (2011).

Critics categorized both moves shamelessly leveraged the recent institutional provenance of the works for profit. In an interview with Sotheby’s at the time of the London show, Kreuk claimed that “‘Transforming the Known’ at the Gemeente Museum in the Hague had nothing to do with selling. It was about my personal journey with contemporary art.”

He also told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant that he made the decision to sell some of the works two months after the Hague show closed and that his motivations behind selling them were purely to purchase more expensive works by other artists in his collection. He claims that collection currently consists of around 800 works but that he has purchased and sold around 5,000 pieces over the past 20 years.

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