An untitled Keith Haring art work has been at the centre of a legal battle between two New York art dealers.

 

Keith Haring Untitled  Credit: Christie’s

 

Asher Eldman’s company, Eldman Arts, must pay a $1 million bill for a mishandled sale of Keith Haring painting worth $5 million, a New York Supreme Court judge has said.

The art dealer, collector and financier’s company has been ordered to pay the million-dollar sum following a trial at the New York Supreme Court.

According to court documents, the dispute began in 2016 when Eldman arranged a viewing of the painting with a representative for “a Middle Eastern family” following his visit to fellow art dealer Lio Malca’s loft. The family were reportedly interested in buying the in the Haring owned by Malca as part of a set of five artworks from Eldman Arts.

Shortly after this agreement, Malca claims that he sent Eldman’s company an invoice for $5 million – the agreed sale price for the artwork.

However, according to court documents, Eldman never paid the $5 million as the intended buyers, to whom Eldman was to resell the art work, were no longer interested. But as far as Malca was concerned, “the invoice remained outstanding, regardless of what happened on Edelman’s end; their deal was done.”

In response, Eldman says he believed the deal was “definitively off” since Eldman Arts was “merely an agent for the ultimate buyers and… the transaction was canceled within a reasonable amount of time.”

So why does Eldman Arts have to pay $1 million? Because 2017 Malca put the Haring up for auction at Christie’s, acting on behalf of consignors identified as SL Fine Art. According to the ruling a deal of $4 million was negotiated with Christie’s. When the hammer went down at $3.5million, Christie’s were required to pay the $4 million.

 

Credit: Christie’s

 

This was swiftly followed by Eldman Arts filing a complaint seeking to void Malca’s original $5 million invoice that remained unpaid. And, in a sweeping turn of events, Malca countersued the company two days later for $1 million: the difference between their originally agreed price of $5 million, and the $4 million the painting ultimately sold for with Christie’s.

The judge stated that Malca had provided “sufficient evidence… of contract formation, breach and damages, while Edelman Arts’s various defenses fail to raise material issues of triable fact.” And ruled in favour of Malca.

Street Artist Keith Haring’s works have always been highly sought-after, but in recent years they have seen a surge in popularity. Collaborations between his foundation and a number of high-profile brands including Jeremy Scott, Coach, Lacoste and Uniqlo, have brought his artworks to a new audience and reaffirmed his place as one of the Street Art greats.