Katya Kazakina has the details of a court battle between Russian galleriest Gary Tatintsian and New York’s Luhrig Augustine over the flow of George Condo paintings from New York to Russia. Kazakina is careful not to state her estimate of what’s going on in suit but that shouldn’t stop us from drawing some inferences.
Here are the basic outlines of the suit. Tatinstian contracted with Luhrig Augustine in early 2008 to bring George Condo paintings to the Russian market where there had been great interest. Soon after, Tatintsian amended the agreement to add more paintings and paid $1m in advance for them.
Now, Tatintsian says he never got his paintings and wants his money back:
“We paid a year ago and haven’t seen the paintings,” Tatintsian said in a telephone interview. “During this time, I saw eight works Condo did for other collectors. I won’t let anyone treat me like this.”
Luhrig Augustine says they offered Tatintsian 5 paintings worth the $1m this Summer but the works were rejected out of hand. What’s going on? Kazakina lets us form the opinion that the oil shock and collapse of the Russian economy may have something to do with the change of heart:
The market for Condo paintings rose sharply after 2005, in part because of demand from Russian buyers and New York collectors, including the Mugrabi family, real-estate developer Aby Rosen and hedge-fund manager David K. Ganek. In May 2008, a Condo painting sold for $1.05 million at Phillips de Pury & Co. in New York, an auction record for the prolific artist.
Since then, Condo’s auction sales have declined by 45 percent, according to Artprice.com, which tracks sales data, while the rate of unsold pieces increased by 246 percent in 2008. The most expensive Condo painting sold since May 2008 went for $316,759 at Christie’s in London.
Then, again, Luhrig Augustine did wait a terribly long time to offer Tatintsian work. So maybe the answer is staring us in the face: nobody likes to be treated like they’re second in line.