Luxury goods maker LVMH must be pretty tired of the misery that keeps coming their way from a disgruntled collector who bought some prints during the Takashi Murakami retrospective at the company’s controversial in-exhibit store. Clint Arthur, the collector, was offered a refund when he complained that he prints were not sold with appropriate documentation. A judge threw out his first suit for that refusal. But another, similar suit has been blessed by a judge and will go to trial, according to Culture Monster‘s Mike Boehm:
Arthur’s attorneys have estimated that the luxury goods purveyor took in as much as $4 million selling prints at a special boutique it had set up at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary building, in the middle of a 2007-08 exhibition of Murakami’s work. With treble damages provided by law, millions more could be at stake.
“I’m thrilled,” Arthur, a Los Angeles art collector and manufacturer of gourmet butter, said Friday when reached at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where he was viewing interior furnishings by Frank Lloyd Wright. “I always knew that we would prevail in this, and I’m very edified that the judge sees it our way.”
Arthur may be “edified” but he doesn’t want to lose his Murakamis. Indeed, the point of the suit is hard to fathom since part of the problem is philosophical: what is an original work of art?
Allowing a retailer to set up shop inside an art exhibition was a rare, if not unprecedented move that MOCA intended to underscore how Murakami straddles lines between art and commerce. Now a jury may be asked to decide whether Murakami’s creative process for the prints was, in legal terms, a fraud.
MOCA may not be out of the woods entirely, Engle said: If it becomes clear that the museum was aware a fraud was being perpetrated by a business operation it invited on the premises, and did nothing to stop it, it could be drawn into the case and face legal liability.
Arthur said in April that he planned to appeal the dismissal of his Superior Court case against MOCA, but Engle said that last week he filed a notice that Arthur would not appeal. Arthur achieved two of his main objectives in that suit, the attorney said — getting a proper certificate for the prints, and prodding MOCA’s store to comply with the Fine Prints Act.
Arthur said the Murakami prints involved in both cases still hang on his walls; he would rather keep the prints from MOCA than take the museum’s refund offer.
“I love the art of Takashi Murakami,” he said, adding that his appreciation hasn’t dimmed because of what he considers wrongdoing in the way the Louis Vuitton prints were created, advertised and sold. “I love the images. What I don’t like is the deceit behind the work.”