Chicago dealer Kavi Gupta denies withholding payments of more than $600,000 from artist Jeffrey Gibson

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Chicago art dealer Kavi Gupta has denied allegations his gallery withheld more than $600,000 in payments to the New York artist Jeffrey Gibson, the artist who will represent the United States at the 2024 Venice Biennale. Gibson filed a lawsuit against Gupta in May.

Gibson, who is set to be the first Indigenous artist to have a solo exhibition in the US Pavilion in Venice, is known for combining influences from his Chocatow and Cherokee heritage with queer and pop culture references in his colourful work. Gibson first began discussions about working with Gupta, one of Chicago’s most powerful dealers, in 2017. But according to a lawsuit filed in New York earlier this year, the artist and gallery now disagree on how expenses incurred by the gallery in selling Gibson’s work should be covered.

In the complaint he filed in May, Gibson alleged that Gupta’s gallery owes him $638,919.31 in sales after they agreed in 2018 to split proceeds from his work sold by the gallery. Gibson claims the gallery proposed deducting the cost of framing from the purchase price before equally allocating the balance of sales proceeds. Gibson’s lawsuit alleges that while the gallery initially did hand over Gibson’s share of sales proceeds, “at some point the gallery fell behind”. Gibson became concerned around April 2022 and retained legal counsel eight months later.

Gupta denied the allegations in an affidavit filed on 4 August, in which he claimed the gallery and Gibson agreed that the production costs and expenses associated with the work would be taken off the top of the purchase price and that “at no time were such reimbursable costs limited to framing expenses”, an arrangement Gipta called “a well-settled industry standard”. Financial records show the gallery has invested more than $760,000 to develop and promote Gibson’s career and work, Gupta said in the filing.

Gupta and his representatives and Gibson’s legal team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Primary market prices for Gibson’s work can range from the high five figures to the mid-six figures. Earlier this year at Art Basel in Hong Kong, the London-based gallery Stephen Friedman Gallery sold works by Gibson for $125,000 and $250,000. On the secondary market, his record of $233,000 was set at a Christie’s afternoon sale in New York in 2015, though that highwater mark is likely to be surpassed soon in light of the Venice Biennale news.

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