David LaChapelle Sues Former Dealer Fred Torres for $2.8 Million

Fred Torres (left) and David LaChapelle in 2011.
Photo: ©Patrick McMullan== Photo - WILL RAGOZZINO/PatrickMcMullan.com.

The stakes in the legal feud between celebrity photographer David LaChapelle and his former agent and dealer Fred Torres got a lot higher on August 8, when LaChapelle filed a $2.8 million lawsuit against Torres in New York State Supreme Court. The suit, filed by LaChapelle and his company David LaChapelle Studios against Torres, his gallery Fred Torres Collaborations, and Fine Art Accounts, claims the gallerist owes the photographer precisely $2,826,844.84, plus another $650,000 in personal loans, according to Courthouse News.

In the suit, LaChapelle explains the terms of his agreement with Torres beginning in 2005 as such:

[Torres] negotiated art sales, sent invoices to buyers, collected the proceeds from sales, consignments and exhibitions, paid vendors, deducted a percentage for [his] services and remitted a percentage to plaintiffs.

Torres was essentially in charge of selling LaChapelle’s photos with little or no oversight from the artist—who retained the copyrights to his works—until late 2011. Then, according to LaChapelle’s lawsuit, he was approached by Torres who

breached the parties’ established protocol … [and] told LaChapelle that he needed authentication labels for approximately four hundred thousand dollars’ ($400,000.00) worth of art work that he/FTC already sold, but could not pay for because of alleged ‘cash flow’ problems.

When the parties reconvened in April of 2012, Torres’s accounts showed that he owed LaChapelle $1,092,110, a sum he agreed to repay the artist in $30,000 monthly installments. According to LaChapelle, Torres never made a single one of those payments. By November of 2012, according to the lawsuit, the dealer’s debt to LaChapelle had nearly tripled, to $2.8 million, at which time the artist ended his agreement with Torres.

However, LaChapelle’s complaint claims:

since the notice of termination, Torres/FTC represented to the media that they represented LaChapelle’s artwork, arranged and promoted an unauthorized gallery showing of that artwork, continued and continue to sell LaChapelle catalogues on their Internet website, and continue to exhibit LaChapelle’s work in various locations in Manhattan.

LaChapelle is now represented by Paul Kasmin, where he had a solo show in January.

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