Australian artwork seller goes on the run after allegedly ripping off rising artists

He hasn’t been seen in weeks. In keeping with individuals acquainted with the case, the artwork seller Tristian Koenig, as soon as the co-owner of the gallery Neon Parc within the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, has a fame for locating excuses to not pay his artists. (Koenig is now not related to Neon Park after he and his companion had a falling out, The Artwork Newspaper has discovered.)

Now, Koenig has missed a number of hearings on the Magistrates’ Court docket of Victoria, which, because of this, has issued a warrant for his arrest. In keeping with a narrative first revealed in The Age in December of final yr, Koenig had a inventive manner of dodging the artists to whom he owed cash. He would provide up excuses together with sick relations, bicycle spills or that he had been bitten by a spider, to be able to postpone repaying his money owed. Usually, when he would lastly pay artists, he did so by depositing a lump sum into their accounts, not specifying which works he had bought.

Months, if not years would move earlier than the artists Koenig represented would see cash from gross sales. The Age experiences that, like many earlier than him, Koenig was good with individuals, particularly younger artists recent out of college. He would describe himself as a mentor who might assist them transfer from exhibiting in under-the-radar group exhibits to industrial galleries and artwork festivals.

If works didn’t promote after a present at his eponymous Melbourne gallery, he would allegedly be as inscrutable with the portray as he was with cash from works that did discover a purchaser. In some circumstances, artists have taken it upon themselves to get their lacking works again. Two artists, after discovering out that a few of their works had been hanging in Koenig’s house that was on the market, went into the house throughout an open home walkthrough and easily eliminated their work from the partitions and walked out the entrance door.

In one other incident, when artist Daniel Noonan visited Koenig’s gallery to choose up unsold work and his share of some gross sales, he discovered his work wrapped and ready for him however Koenig was nowhere to be discovered. When Noonan looked for Koenig within the again workplace, he “noticed that Koenig had climbed right into a crawl area within the ceiling. ‘I yelled out, “Tristian, come down, I want to speak to you.’” I might see his arse protruding of the manhole. He wouldn’t come down.”

In 2018 Andre Hemer, an artist to whom Koenig owed cash, enlisted the assistance of Alana Kushnir, a lawyer who specialises in artwork legislation, is the founder and director of Visitor Work Company and principal investigator for Serpentine’s Authorized Lab. Kushnir took on the case pro-bono. Hemer referred Kushnir to a different artist who was allegedly fleeced by the seller the next yr. Now she represents six artists to whom Koenig owes cash, artworks or each, all on a pro-bono foundation. There are extra, in accordance with sources acquainted with the case, however some have refused to pursue the matter.

It was Kushnir, together with Chip LeGrand, the chief reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, who investigated the lacking works and LeGrand who revealed their findings, together with tales of Koenig’s exploits and a gallery of among the lacking work, in The Age in December of final yr. Because of the story, 23 of the no less than 50 lacking works had been discovered because of collectors who got here ahead after studying the article. However there are a lot of extra work lacking and monies to be repaid.

A follow-up story revealed by the Herald says that Victoria police have no less than as soon as been in a position to contact Koenig by telephone, and that collectors have joined within the marketing campaign in opposition to him by way of the courts. Amongst them is Los Angeles-based collector and seller Stefan Simchowitz, who consigned a lot of works Koenig then bought, however by no means acquired his 15% fee. Sources say Koenig was final seen in Melbourne “just a few weeks in the past” and that additional makes an attempt by the police to contact him at house have been unsuccessful.

“I’m pleased with my purchasers for talking up about this matter,” Kushnir says. “Sadly, this isn’t a standalone prevalence in Australia, as within the artwork world globally. Most galleries right here do the best factor and pay their artists. Nevertheless, it’s simple for unhealthy conduct to fall by way of the cracks when there’s a lack of industry-level accountability. At the moment there isn’t a energetic, overarching {industry} physique for industrial galleries which units moral requirements for a way they need to function. The Australian Industrial Galleries Affiliation was disbanded a lot of years in the past. I’m involved that we’re seeing severe penalties of this transfer now enjoying out.”

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