Michael Ovitz Sues AIG Over “Stolen” Richard Prince Paintings

Tamara Mellon, Michael Ovitz Photo: Nicholas Hunt/PatrickMcMullan.com

Hollywood mogul and top art collector Michael Ovitz is suing insurer AIG (American International Group), and its subsidiary, Chartis, over the loss of two Richard Prince paintings for which he says he is entitled to $2.5 million worth of coverage under policies he holds with the insurer. (See Millionaires Love Richard Prince and Christopher Wool and Richard Prince Sucks.)

Ovitz’s complaint, which includes his wife Judy as a co-plaintiff, was filed in Superior Court in California on April 17 and cites bad faith breach of insurance contract, and bad faith breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

The origins of the case date back a few years and are linked to an earlier dispute with Los Angeles dealer Perry Rubenstein, who, according to the complaint “stole” two Richard Prince paintings, Untitled and Nobody’s Home, from Ovitz.

According to the complaint, Rubenstein allegedly did so by employing “false pretenses that they would transmit to [Ovitz] such moneys paid to them by a purchaser of the artwork.” Rubenstein, who filed for bankruptcy this past year, is claimed to have orchestrated a criminal fraud, of which the “supposed consignment of Untitled was but a single component.” (See LA Dealer Perry Rubenstein Files for Bankruptcy and Bankrupt Dealer Perry Rubenstein Speaks Out, Promising to Resolve Obligations).

Rubenstein allegedly sold Prince’s Untitled in mid-May 2013 and Nobody’s Home, also by Prince, in November 2013 “and pocketed all proceeds” in both instances. For Untitled, Rubenstein “misrepresented to Mr. Ovitz that he (Mr. Ovitz) would net $500,000” per the complaint. However, plaintiffs claim that Rubenstein has never paid Ovitz any proceeds from Untitled.

In late 2013, after Ovitz unsuccessfully demanded that Rubenstein return the two paintings to him, he sued the dealer for fraud, conversion, and breach of contract. A month later, in December 2013, he reported the loss of the two Prince paintings to his insurers.

According to his complaint, Ovitz complied with all requests for information about the loss and says AIG is refusing to reimburse him for a loss of valuable work insured at $2.5 million that is “indisputably covered by an insurance policy issued by [AIG/Chartis].”

Ovitz is represented by Eric George of Browne George Ross, who have not responded for a request for comment.

A representative for AIG declined to comment on the case to artnet News.


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