Bert Kreuk and Danh Vō Speak Out on $1.2 Million Lawsuit

Exclusive new details revealed.

Danh Vo interview.
Danh Vo.
Photo: artnet News.
Bert Kreuk Photo: Courtesy Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, via Art Daily

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

UPDATE: Following this article’s publication, Danh Vō contacted artnet News with the additional statement: “I, from early on, was very suspicious of Bert Kreuk as a collector since one of my other galleries was also sued by him, but got nothing out of it. This is initially why I made the loan agreement to the museum.” Kreuk subsequently emailed artnet News to state that “he never earlier stood before a judge in 20 years of collecting and can only presume to which ‘suit’  refers, which was an exchange between lawyers.” “It does not alter the facts and interim ruling in this case,” he wrote. Vō also clarified that he was not directly involved in the sale of L from his “Alphabet” series. Vō says that he made extensive efforts, through Galerie Bortolozzi, to ensure his ability to finish the artwork. Kreuk denies this assertion and says that only through court efforts was the work completed. Due to this information subsequently received from both Vō and Kreuk, which ran contrary to an initial version of the final paragraph of this article, that final paragraph has been amended to reflect each party’s current stance (as of the evening of September 16th) on the other’s claims. 

As artnet News previously reported, collector Bert Kreuk has sued artist and Hugo Boss Prize-winner Danh Vō in the Netherlands’ Rechtbank Rotterdam court for $1.2 million (see “Art-Flipper” Bert Kreuk Sues Artist Danh Vō for $1.2 Million”). Kreuk claims that Vō failed to deliver an installation for “Transforming the Known,” an exhibition of his collection at The Hague’s Gemeentemuseum (Municipal Museum of The Hague) that closed in September of last year, an assertion that representatives for Vō have denied.

Kreuk, who corresponded with artnet News via email over the past week, writes: “Danh Vō visited my home and we drank beer together; it is all unfortunate, but he left me no choice” other than to sue. In a statement sent to this reporter, Kreuk explains his version of the events that led to the suit as follows:

When you agree on the details of a commission work, like price, timing, etc for an exhibition, and as artist you select the best space in that exhibition, I think as collector it is not unreasonable to expect compliance. It is not responsible behavior when as artist you request hotel rooms and all arrangements for 5 days of installation, and decide not to show up. I can only speculate on the reasons why Mr. Danh Vo did not follow up on the agreement, but a similar installation was shown and sold in the show at Kurimanzutto in Mexico shortly after my exhibition. He should have been forthright if timing was an issue or if he had any problems with his gallery schedule or even if he had reached the conclusion that he now could sell it for more in Mexico. Whatever the reason, at least stay in touch. I could then have given the space to another artist.

In the last 12 months I have donated works, financed exhibitions and contributed to non-profit organizations, far in access of the amount in question. So it is not about the money, but about the principle of abiding by an agreement, no matter one’s status in the art world. That applies to collectors as well as to artists. One cannot try to justify a default, by an event that took place more than 10 months after the fact, like selling some of my works at auction.

Kreuk sold 11 works from The Hague exhibition, including a piece by Vō, in a Sotheby’s New York auction last fall.

Vō’s US legal representatives, New York–based law firm Kane Kessler P.C., confirmed the existence of legal proceedings between Vō, his Berlin gallery Isabella Bortolozzi, and Kreuk to artnet News. Vō is being represented in the Netherlands by J.P. Heering, a partner at law firm Barent Krans. However, Kane Kessler P. C. denied Kreuk’s version of the events:

Contrary to Kreuk’s claim, no sale of an artwork was conducted either by Danh Vo or Galerie Bortolozzi for this exhibition.

When requested by the courts to do so, Kreuk has been repeatedly unable to produce any proof indicating the existence of a purchase contract with Vo or Galerie Bortolozzi for the work that Kreuk claims. As there is no purchase agreement with Kreuk with regard to the claimed artwork, Danh Vo and Galerie Bortolozzi are confident that they will prevail in the legal proceedings.

When asked by artnet News about the existence of a contract for the installation work, Kreuk wrote that he could not comment on specifics of the case due to the ongoing proceedings. An interim decision reached by the Rechtbank Rotterdam on July 23, 2014 and published online on August 15, 2014, claims that existing correspondence between Vō, Isabella Bortolozzi, and Kreuk is sufficient to conclude that an agreement was made for one or more works by Vō to be shown at the Gemeentemuseum and that an understanding had been reached that one work would be new. Though Vō was granted complete artistic freedom with regard to the form that new work might take, Kreuk indicated a previous work whose type he found appealing that would be included in the exhibition. Both sides must now prove whether or not a further agreement was made for Kreuk to acquire the new work for his collection. Kreuk tells artnet News that he has many witnesses that will attest to the fact that the agreement did indeed include his purchase of the new work.

Danh Vo interview.

Danh Vo.
Photo: artnet News.

However, Vō’s legal representatives state that “it is Mr. Vo’s position in the suit that Mr. Vo never agreed to sell Kreuk an installation work of art, as Kreuk apparently claims.” Their statement continues:

Danh Vo participated in Kreuk’s exhibition “Transforming the Known”, at The Hague’s Gemeentemuseum. Contrary to Kreuk’s claim, a work was delivered by Danh Vo for the exhibition “Transforming the Known” and displayed as part of the show.

The work was provided to the Gemeentemuseum under a signed loan agreement between Danh Vo and the Gemeentemuseum only. After the exhibition closed, Kreuk took it upon himself to intercept the Museum loan and block the return of Vo’s work from the Gemeentemuseum, by taking out an injunction that prevented the work from being transported back to Danh Vo. 12 months on, Danh Vo is still waiting for his artwork to be rightfully returned to him.

According to Vō’s counsel and the interim decision, that work shown at the Gemeentemuseum under a loan to that museum was Fiat Veritas, identified elsewhere in images of the exhibition as Fiat Veritas, et Pereart Mundus. Kreuk confirms that he has placed a lien on that work, pending the current legal action. He says that this is supported by the court’s decision in points 4.9 and 4.10 of the interim ruling that Fiat Veritas does not fulfill the provisions of their agreement that a new work would be made.

Going to the Secondary Market

Since news of the current lawsuit broke, much chatter has circulated regarding the $1.2 million in damages sought by Kreuk. In justifying the amount, Kreuk explains that, should Vō be unwilling to complete and deliver the piece Kreuk claims he commissioned, he wishes to purchase a similar piece on the secondary market. “The claim of $1.2 million is a proven reflection of the value in the secondary market and has nothing to do with profit losses,” Kreuk wrote to artnet News. Kreuk claims that he can back up that value with statements by secondary market dealers. He contends that the estimate could, in fact, be too low and that he may consider increasing his claim against the artist.

The Rechtbank Rotterdam already decided on one point within the initial lawsuit, regarding L from the artist’s “Alphabet” series. According to the collector, that work, which he purchased and paid for through Galerie Bortolozzi, was delivered. He claims that he was later told that the work was in fact unfinished and was requested by Galerie Bortolozzi to return the work to Vō. Vō says that he wished to complete the work. Kreuk claims that up until the ruling the artist had not been willing to do so. Kreuk filed court proceedings, and according to an agreement provided to artnet News from May 19, 2014, signed by Kreuk, Vō, and Bortolozzi, the court decided in agreement with the signatories that the work would be completed and delivered by July 1 of this year. The agreement imposed an immediate fine of €40,000 (about $51,700) and additional fines of €2,000 (about $2,600) per day of delay up to €200,000 (about $258,000). Vō claims that these measures were instituted to “show my willingness to finish this work.” Kreuk denies this account of the circumstances and instead claims that the fine was imposed to force Vō to uphold the agreement. Kreuk says the work was delivered by July 1 as mandated. Vō’s legal representatives confirmed that the L work is no longer at issue in the suit.


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