Action movie producer Joel Silver has upwards of 120 films to his name — including blockbuster franchises Predator, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and The Matrix — but he wants to pull the plug on a project he’s already sunk $3.2 million into.
On Friday, April 27, Silver filed a lawsuit against the mega-gallery Gagosian for failing to deliver a Jeff Koons sculpture that he began making payments on in 2014 and was originally told would be delivered in June 2017, as the New York Daily News first reported. When the delivery date was repeatedly pushed back, most recently to August 2020, Silver’s lawsuit claims he asked that the purchase be canceled and the $3.2 million he’d already paid returned.
“Frustrated by the delay and skeptical of when, if ever, the ‘Balloon Venus’ would be completed,” Silver demanded a refund, the complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, states. The gallery refused, allegedly countering that if Silver canceled the order the gallery would keep his $3.2 million. The total price of the sculpture is listed as $8 million in the lawsuit.
If this all sounds familiar it may be because last month, asset manager and Museum of Modern Art trustee Steven Tananbaum filed a lawsuit against Gagosian and Koons for failing to deliver three sculptures for which he’d already paid more than $13 million. That lawsuit came to light the day before Silver’s most recent payment deadline with Gagosian, April 20, when he was due to put another $1.6 million down on the sculpture. The Koons piece in question is an edition of one of the works Tananbaum had also paid for, listed as the nearly nine-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture “Balloon Venus Hohlen Fels (Yellow).”
Like Tananbaum’s lawsuit, Silver’s complaint also cites a similar case from 2013, when another gallery that works with Koons, David Zwirner, was sued over a two-year delay in delivering the sculpture “Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden).” Indeed, Silver’s complaint — which does not name Koons as a defendant — cites the Tananbaum lawsuit extensively.
“Mr. Tananbaum’s complaint strongly suggests that the pace of production at the Koons studio is glacial and disordered and that the Gagosian Gallery and/or Jeff Koons LLC concealed delays from Silver,” the complaint states. “Recent requests that the Gagosian Gallery state the status of production, or provide images, have gone unanswered; and the Gagosian Gallery has rejected offers to place millions in escrow that are conditioned simply on a report on the status of production and no further delays in completion.”
Silver is seeking that his purchase agreement with Gagosian be voided, his $3.2 million be returned, and that he be awarded $6.6 million for the gallery’s violation of the terms of New York’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law (NYACAL) — which stipulates that information about the fabrication of a multiple must be provided to its buyer. “The Gagosian Gallery willfully failed to provide information required by [NYACAL] to Plaintiff Silver, and knowingly provided false information.”
In a statement to the Daily News, a spokesperson for Gagosian defended the delayed production process of Koons’s sculptures: “He produces large, complex pieces of art that require master craftsmanship and take time to execute. […] Progress is being made on the pieces at issue in these litigations, and as always they will be delivered upon completion.” At this rate, Silver’s long-awaited Predator sequel will see the light of day long before Koons’s “Balloon Venus.”