An heiress to a billion-dollar Hong Kong beverage company has sued one of the city’s top art dealers over claims the gallery never delivered on her purchase of a well-known painting by British artist Banksy. The lawsuit's filing coincides with the opening of this year’s edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, the city’s largest art fair.
Karen Lo, whose grandfather Lo Kwee-Seong became a billionaire after founding soy milk giant Vitasoy in 1940, filed a lawsuit this week claiming that she never received a Banksy painting she purchased from Pearl Lam, whose eponymous gallery is one of the major art world players in Hong Kong, according to Reuters.
According to the complaint, Lo paid Lam £500,000 under the belief the gallerist had purchased on her behalf Banksy’s Show Me The Monet (2005), a parody of Impressionist Claude Monet’s series of paintings of the garden at his home in Giverny featuring orange traffic cones, a discarded shopping cart and other garbage in a pond. The painting sold for £7.6m with fees at Sotheby’s London in 2020 to an Asian collector. At the time it was Banksy’s second most-valuable work to sell at auction.
Lam's office said in a statement that Lo is "a dear old friend" of Lam's and that the lawsuit arose from a misunderstanding. Lam has offered Lo a full refund "from the very beginning", Lam's office said. Lo also accused Lam of not paying back a loan of HK$5m (almost £520,000), according to the South China Morning Post.
The Pearl Lam Gallery is one of the 177 exhibitors taking part in this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong fair as the city bounces back from some of the world’s most stringent Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
Lo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Art Newspaper. Lo has made headlines in recent years for reportedly spending eight-digit sums on high-profile properties in the US, including British rocker Sting’s former New York penthouse for $50m.