Artists Fear Loss of Work in Padlocked Tribeca Gallery

This is what happens when you don't pay your rent.

Elena Ab. Photo: Vladimir Andreyev, via YouTube.
Elena Ab. Photo: Vladimir Andreyev, via YouTube.

After the sudden shuttering of Tribeca’s Elena Ab Gallery when owner Elena Ab was evicted in September, a number of artists have been reportedly unable to recover their artwork.

The building owner, Tribeca Associates LP, reportedly filed a property execution notice in July through a lawyer indicating that Ab owed $102,163.30 in unpaid rent. However, the gallerist told artnet News in a phone interview that she had a good reason for refusing to pay her landlord. “Last winter, I had no heat for four months. When that happened I stopped paying rent.”

Artists Linus Coraggio and Christopher Hart Chambers are both anxious to retrieve their work from the space at 185 Church Street. Chambers, who is missing 15 pieces, has a show at the Nassau County Museum of Art slated to open November 20. Coraggio, who had been storing no less than 45 artworks at the gallery, was planning on installing his metallic works in shows in Brooklyn and in Hudson, New York.

The art inside the gallery is collectively valued at $125,000, according to Gothamist.

Linus Coraggio with some of his artwork, including several pieces currently locked up at Elena Ab Gallery. Photo: courtesy Linus Corragio.

Linus Coraggio with some of his artwork, including several pieces currently locked up at Elena Ab Gallery.
Photo: courtesy Linus Corragio.

Fearing that the landlord will move to sell their artwork at a Marshals Service auction, Coraggio and Chambers have reportedly filed suit in New York Civil Supreme Court, and are due to appear on November 20. The pair is represented by attorney Jacqueline M. Hansen Bukowski. In a phone interview with artnet News, Bukowski said, “Their art is literally being held hostage. It’s a terrible situation.”

“I am a victim of just being stupid,” Ab told artnet News, revealing that she signed a payment agreement in court this summer without realizing what she had done. “I don’t know how to resolve it, because the minute I signed the payment I agreed that I owed it, but I don’t agree,” she said.

artnet News received a photograph of the notice of levy and sale, dated September 18, posted on the gallery window. The notice states that Ab must pay $108,998 or her assets will be sold at a public auction to satisfy her debts and the marshal’s fees and expenses.

According to the gallery website, Ab also represents Lupicinio Rocha and Nina Boesch. An artist herself, Ab told artnet News she has pieces by 12 or 13 artists, including her own work, stored in the gallery.

The marshal's notice of levy and sale in the window of Elena Ab Gallery. Photo: Hiromi Kikkawa.

The marshal’s notice of levy and sale in the window of Elena Ab Gallery.
Photo: Hiromi Kikkawa.

In a phone call with artnet News, Coraggio said that it was his understanding that Boesch had been able to recover her artwork from the padlocked gallery by, he says, “agreeing to an ultimatum from Bernard D’Orazio, the management company’s collection attorney…that ‘once the work does sell at any point in the future, you will be bound to pay 10 percent of the sale price to the city marshal which will then go to us.'”

In his initial dealings with D’Orazio, Coraggio says that he was told to provide written proof of his ownership of his artwork, and that he would be allowed to retrieve it within the week. “We complied and that didn’t go anywhere,” he claims.

The Elena Ab Gallery. Photo: Elena Ab, via Yelp.

The Elena Ab Gallery. Photo: Elena Ab, via Yelp.

Ab has represented Coraggio since December of 2013, but did not have a written consignment contract with her until he drew one up for his May solo show: “Fortunately I included conditions that the work remains my property until the event of the sale, which Elena initialed.”

“I’m really unsure of what to do: make a deal with the devil, or try my luck with the legal system,” Coraggio added, noting that his lawyer is confident their case will prevail at trial, but that he is concerned about potential delays.

“My first priority is to get back to the artists their work,” Ab maintained.

artnet News reached out to D’Orazio and Tribeca Associates LP for comment, but had not received a response by the time of publication.


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