Dean Levin Sues Robert Blumenthal for $200,000 Unpaid After Sold-Out Show

Why is paying artists such a problem for dealers?

Dean Levin.

Painter Dean Levin has sued Upper East Side dealer Robert Blumenthal for nearly $200,000, claiming non-payment after a sold-out show in May 2014. The suit pits a 26-year-old artist represented by New York dealer Marianne Boesky and collected by Leonardo Di Caprio against a real estate investor and dealer whose gallery has been open for just a year (see Is the Upper East Side New York’s Next Hot Art Neighborhood?).

“Dean Levin: 1X1” was Levin’s first solo and included ten 66-by-44-inch paintings priced at $8,500 each and twenty 40-by-30-inch works tagged at $6,500, totaling $215,000, according to the complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court on February 13. Levin hasn’t been paid other than a check for $18,500, delivered in June, the complaint says. The paintings were displayed in a metal viewing rack, cheek-by-jowl, as if in storage. Viewers could slide the paintings out to view them individually.

Blumenthal, who grew up in Miami, runs a gallery at 1045 Madison Avenue and another in East Hampton, New York. He opened for business in February 2014 with a group show organized by J. Patrick Walsh III in February 2014, which included artists such as Lucy Dodd and Sam Moyer. He told the website exhibition a that he collects artists including Daniel Heidkamp and Sam Falls.

Neither Levin nor Blumenthal responded immediately to requests for comment.

Zombie Formalism

A show at Blumenthal’s gallery, incidentally, played a key role in the naming of the “zombie formalism” trend. Blumenthal hosted “Ain’tings,” organized by artist and critic Ryan Steadman, in March-April 2014. The show inspired artist and critic Walter Robinson’s April 2014 Artspace column “Flipping and the Rise of Zombie Formalism.” Young male abstract painters like Parker Ito, Jacob Kassay, and Oscar Murillo are considered emblematic of a trend toward “process-based,” easy-on-the-eyes, low-content abstract painting that has seen a white-hot market despite skepticism from critics (see Have Art Fairs Destroyed Art? Zombie Abstraction and Dumb Painting Ruled in Miami).

On view through the end of this month is “Let’s Talk Postmodernity,” including works “from Blumenthal’s collection” by Heidkamp, Luke Diiorio, Ryan Estep, Antoine Puisais, and Chris Succo, most of whom have been featured in past shows.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1988, Levin worked for a New York architecture firm after earning an architecture degree in 2012 from New York’s Pratt Institute. In July he became the youngest artist to join Boesky’s stable (see Marianne Boesky Now Representing Dean Levin).

The lawsuit was first reported by the Baer Faxt, an industry newsletter.

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