Art law News USA

LaChapelle’s ‘monster’ legal battle with former dealer

Parties expected to enter into settlement talks

A bitter legal dispute between the photographer David LaChapelle and his former dealer Fred Torres has “grown into a Frankenstein monster”, a federal judge wrote in a 7 August ruling. Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed the majority of the ex-business partners’ claims and counterclaims—which included accusations of “corporate espionage” and millions of dollars in unpaid debt and damages—because her court lacked jurisdiction. On 8 August, LaChapelle filed similar claims against Torres, his gallery and artist management firm Fred Torres Collaborations and his company Fine Art Accounts in New York State court.

Meanwhile, a copyright and trademark infringement case accusing Torres of making unauthorised copies of LaChapelle’s works and falsely representing himself as Torres’s dealer after their business relationship had ended is pending in federal court. (Judge Caproni likened the complex legal tangle to a “law school hypothetical” in her recent ruling.) But the 19-month-long battle could end soon. According to court papers, the parties are preparing to enter settlement discussions. Both sides are scheduled to appear in court to update the judge on the status of negotiations on 16 September.

This is hardly LaChapelle or Torres’s first legal dispute. In 2011, LaChapelle sued Rihanna for copyright infringement after she allegedly misused photographs he took of her for Italian Vogue in the music video for her song “S&M”. (The pop star settled with LaChapelle for an undisclosed sum.) In 2013, Alessandro Twombly, the son of the artist Cy Twombly, sued Torres for unlawfully withholding artworks he had consigned to Torres’s gallery. A state court judge dismissed that case in January 2014.

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