Harry Stendhal and Jonas Mekas together at the opening of “Jonas Mekas: Fragments of Paradise” at Maya Stendhal Gallery in 2005 (via newyorksocialdiary.com)

Sure, we know that art dealers can be shady (very shady, in fact) but this recent story about a lawsuit that has been filed against the owner of Chelsea’s Stendhal Gallery, who supposedly swindled two artists to pay off a $90,000 bill at Cipriani Downtown is Un.Fuckin’.Believable … even by New York standards.

Courtesy the New York Post:

The artists, “godfather of avant-garde cinema” Jonas Mekas and designer Paula Scher, charge that Harry Stendhal sold their pieces without giving them their cut and is holding millions of dollars more of their work hostage, according to lawsuits they filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The pair say that when they confronted Stendhal, he retaliated by barraging them with profanity-laced e-mails … [including] “Don’t f- – k with me — I am warning you” …

One word: slimy.

Hat tip LM

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

9 replies on “Stendhal Gallery Owner Accused of Swindling Artists Jonas Mekas & Paula Scher”

  1. I’ve known Harry Stendhal for five years and I’m UPSET to see this to say the least. I don’t know what’s going on here, but Harry has done so much for his artists and Jonas Mekas in particular. In addition to exceptional shows in his gallery, Harry has worked diligently to organize exhibitions at museums around the world. I’m sure no one on the planet has done as much in contemporary times for the Fluxus movement, including his long standing support of the Anthology Film Archives (founded by Mekas).

    In 2006, Harry was WAY ahead of his time and built a website to distribute and promote the films of Jonas Mekas. http://www.jonasmekas.com There is nothing up now, but it used to be a very elaborate site where one could subscribe to receive a video a day recorded by Mekas as well as purchase digitized clips of historical films. I downloaded and enjoyed many of them on my Zune. If I can find the files, I will upload them to my YouTube channel and report back.

    I can’t imagine how much all this has cost him. Certainly a number in the millions is highly likely. I have personal knowledge of this because of my friendship with Harry and also because in late 2006 I was involved in negotiating a potential partnership with Microsoft for distribution of the videos under a Zune arts vertical (the conversations didn’t go very far…).

    Anyway, I haven’t read anything more about these charges or what has been alleged other than this posting. I haven’t spoken much with Harry in the last couple of years, but he has always been so generous with me and his artists that I ask all not to rush to judgment.

      1. Hah-ha! I only bought it because I was pitching Microsoft on developing a fine art segment for video! I just found out I have some great stuff on there: Jonas Mekas, Elvis, Yoko Ono and Salvador Dali. All due to what Harry organized and made available…

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