GREAT BAY – Almost ten years have passed since a bailiff put a lien on an illicit replica of Roland Richardson’s painting Flamboyant Bouquet on Artist’s worktable at the J.W. Sloan Gallery in Cole Bay. Sloan’s director Jan Marshall passed away in 2015, but yesterday Richardson was in court with his heirs in the pursuit of compensation for damages.
There was room for some humor too, yesterday. “This must be the only courtroom in the kingdom where the king hangs in the back,” Richardson told presiding Judge Erik Jan van der Poel.
“But he is looking at your painting,” the judge quipped.
And indeed, behind the bench in the downstairs courtroom the wall is dominated by a huge painting of a flamboyant tree – painted by Roland Richardson, who appeared in court with his wife Laura. On the opposite wall is a picture of King Willem-Alexander. In the upstairs courtroom, a similar picture of the king hangs behind the bench.
Back in 2008, the Sloan Gallery was in the crosshairs of many local artists who discovered that their work had been counterfeited. Richardson was one of the victims of Marshall’s art theft and he initiated a lawsuit.
That resulted in a conviction on May 3, 2011, but Marshall did not abide by the ruling: he did not react to anything.
The current petition to the court offers an insight in part of the damages claimed by Richardson: 15 forged paintings sold at $450 a pop for a total of $6,750, missed income from the reproduction series of two paintings at $375 a piece time 150 – totaling $56,250, legal costs, unproductive hours, and uncollected penalties; all in all a claim of at least around $63,000.
Yesterday it appeared that both parties are weary of a continued fight in court with its associated costs and they have now until the end of October to agree on a settlement.
The ruling of May 2011 shows that Marshall counterfeited two paintings: Flamboyant Bouquet on Artist’s Worktable and July Blooms. The gallery sold at least one copy of the first painting, on Valentine’s Day 2008.
Sloan, represented at the time by attorney Maarten le Poole, acknowledged that Richardson holds the copyright to the paintings and the court ruled that Sloan had violated those rights.
The court sentenced Sloan to pay damages, granted Richardson to destroy the copy of the Flamboyant painting and ordered Sloan to stop selling the Flamboyant and July Blooms paintings immediately.
Sloan also had to provide the names and addresses of the supplier of the replicas; the court forbade the gallery to make any more copies of Richardson’s paintings. The ruling imposes a penalty of $2,500 for every violation of the court ruling with a maximum of $50,000.
That court victory did not help Richardson at all because Sloan and its director Jan Marshall did not pay any damages.
In September 2011, a lien was put under the Scotia Bank accounts of the company but it soon turned out that those accounts were empty.
Attorney Rick Bergman notes in his petition to the court that Marshall most likely took all assets out of the company, given the fact that Sloan did not have anything to pay for the damages.
Bergman said that, based on a ruling from the Common Court of Justice, the director of a company can be held personally liable. “Marshall knew that Sloan was bound to pay but he also made sure that the company did not have any assets.”
Marshall passed away in 2015 and from that moment the claim became the responsibility of his heirs.
On April 6 of last year the heirs were summoned to pay the damages, but they did not react and therefore Richardson went to court again yesterday.
“My client only wants a fair settlement,” Bergman told the court. “He does not want to be in court for the rest of his life.”
Judge van der Poel noted that the heirs have a responsibility to settle the matter, because Marshall was the director and only owner of the Sloan Gallery. The judge inquired about “a beginning of willingness” to talk about a settlement. “Further litigation will only cost more money.”
At the judge’s suggestion, parties retreated from the courtroom to find common ground. They have now until the end of October to find an agreement; otherwise the litigation will continue.