Joel Silver Sues Over $8 Million Jeff Koons Balloon Sculpture

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Joel Silver, Jeff Koons
Artsy.com /Getty / Jeff Koons (Courtesy and the Lyon Biennale) /

Joel Silver claims he’s paid $3.2 million dollars so far for a Jeff Koons sculpture that still hasn’t been finished and since the art gallery won’t let him cancel the deal, he’s filed a lawsuit instead.

According to court documents obtained by The Blast, Silver claims he agreed to pay Gagosian Gallery $8 million for a yellow Balloon Venus sculpture from Koons. The payment plan called for Silver to fork over an $800,000 deposit and make several $1.6 million payments until the sculpture was complete, with an estimated completion date of June 2017.

Silver claims within a year of signing the deal, he’d made $3.2 million in payments but then didn’t make payments for the next two years.

It wasn’t until January 2017 — six months from the estimated completion date — that Silver claims he received an email from Gagosian Gallery saying that the new completion date was now July 2019.

Silver claims the Gagosian Gallery wanted to change the payment plan, but Silver refused and asked for his $3.2 million back. Gagosian Gallery responded by saying that if Silver didn’t agree to the payment modification, they would terminate the agreement and deem Silver to have forfeited his $3.2 million.

Silver relented and signed the new agreement — which now set the completion date for December 2020 — calling for him to pay $1.6 million on January 1, 2018, an additional $1.6 million on June 1, 2019, and the final $1.6 million upon the “estimated completion date.”

But when January 1, 2018 rolled around, Silver did not pay up. Gagosian Gallery threatened to cancel the deal and keep his money and Silver claims he responded with a new proposal: to pay a higher amount, $2.4 million, so long as that amount was held in escrow. Silver said he would pay the final $4.8 million upon completion.

Gagosian Gallery refused the offer and again said Silver was in danger of forfeiting his $3.2 million. Silver claims he agreed to make the $1.6 on April 20, 2018.

But the day before that payment was due, Silver learned a collector named Steven Tananbaum had sued the Gagosian Gallery over the very same statue (but in magenta). Tananbaum’s lawsuit detailed many of the same problems Silver had been having.

The day the $1.6 million payment was due, Joel Silver claims he offered one last time to pay $2.4 million in escrow and another $2.4 million upon completion, but Gagosian Gallery again refused.

Instead of making the payment, Silver filed a lawsuit.

Joel Silver is suing the gallery (Koons is not a named defendant) to get his $3.2 million back, plus $3.2 million in compensatory damages and another $6.6 in treble damages.

At the very least, he wants the court to rule that if he is in violation of the purchase agreement, $3.2 million is “an unenforceable, disproportionate penalty.”

A gallery spokesperson tells The Blast, “”Mr. Koons has become a world-renowned artist because he approaches each piece with utmost integrity and attention to detail. He produces large, complex pieces of art that require master craftsmanship and take time to execute. Because of the unusual process used to create his pieces, and his impeccable standards for completion, his contracts for sale specifically state that the delivery dates are only estimates. For more than 30 years Jeff Koons has been creating works of art and to our knowledge, without exception, has never failed to deliver these works and always to the enormous satisfaction of the collector. Progress is being made on the pieces at issue in these litigations, and as always they will be delivered upon completion.”