Koi Fish Artist Jeremy Novy Calls Out Art Gallery For Non-Payment, Fraud
Street artist Jeremy Novy is the stencil painter behind the koi fish graffiti art seen around San Francisco, but he’s alleging some very fishy behavior at a Castro district art gallery. Novy is filing a lawsuit accusing the Castro gallery Art Attack SF of a series of egregious actions; non-payment for artworks sold, not returning artworks, contract law violations, and illegally preventing artists from displaying works at other galleries.
These artist allegations are a pattern with this gallery. BrokeAssStuart.com spoke to multiple other artists who alleged similar breaches of contract, non-payment, or not getting their unsold work back. Those artists spoke on condition of anonymity, but Jeremy Novy is not remaining anonymous.
“My reason for going public with this isn’t really just about me and my own artwork,” Novy told BrokeAssStuart.com. “It’s actually about all the other artists in San Francisco, and any other artists that may be a part of the gallery or the city of San Francisco. I’m trying to protect everybody, not just myself.”
Jeremy Novy is best known for his koi fish street art appearing in SF, Los Angeles, Portland, and other U.S. cities. But he’s also a renowned gallery circuit artist whose work is often commissioned by large businesses (or in some cases, flat-out stolen by large businesses). He mixes his efforts between commissioned works and radical queer street art featuring shirtless bears, drag queens, and Stonewall bricks.
You may not realize that when you go to art galleries or opening parties, the artists and the galleries have legal contracts in place specifying that the gallery gets to keep a share of whatever dollar amount of the artist’s works that gets sold. Sometimes these contracts are “exclusive,” meaning the artist cannot show their art at another gallery for a certain period of time. At the end of the contract, the parties can agree to renew it, or part ways.
Novy entered one of those exclusive contracts in October 2018 with Art Attack SF, a gallery whom Hoodline reports moved to the Castro in 2017 from a previous Fisherman’s Wharf location. The contract was supposed to last just one year, but Novy says the gallery renewed his contract without his consent and gave him no option to get out — unless he paid them $28,500.
“No artist should be betrayed by their gallery in this way,” his attorney Alex Austin said in a release. “Contracts are meant to be understood by both parties and fair. This contract looks to be as far from fair as I’ve seen in my many years as an attorney for both artists and galleries.”
Image: Marc Tarlock via Flickr
But Art Attack tells a different side of the story in ther statement to Broke-AssStuart.com. “Jeremy Novy is making false and defamatory statements,” the gallery said in a press release.
“After some six years of representation and significant sales, all of which artist proceeds were paid, in September 2019 Mr. Novy breached his exclusive Bay Area consignment agreement with the Gallery by giving notice of termination and consigning artwork to a competing San Francisco gallery before the end of his operative term in October, 2019,” the release says. “This and related actions by the artist led to their dispute which was referred to respective counsel. The Gallery acknowledged that it no longer wanted to represent an artist who did not want its representation, but believed that a written Settlement Agreement was in the best interest of both parties. Mr. Novy was offered the right to buy-out the Gallery’s exclusive Bay Area representation rights for a share of what the Gallery would be losing due to the artist’s unilateral breach.
“While in the course of attempted good faith negotiations on the part of the Gallery, which included multiple Gallery requests to mediate the matter through California Lawyers for the Arts’ Arts Arbitration and Mediation Services (AAMS), Mr. Novy began his online campaign to disparage the Gallery. The Artist also refused to accept referral of the matter to mediation as requested and recommended.”
According to Novy’s attorneys, Art Attack SF finally agreed to let him out of the contract in early January after months of negotiations and stall tactics. But multiple works of his art are allegedly still not returned, and the gallery is still holding onto thousands of dollars from Novy’s other works that did sell. (Again, we’ve heard similar allegations from other SF artists.)
Novy doesn’t want to see this happen to more of them. “If just one person stands up, it can encourage others to do the same,” he said in a release.
The press release also mentions Art Attack SF’s owner James Capadona having a felony history from the late 2000s, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled he’d committed perjury and obstruction of justice in a trial stemming from a mid-1990s marijuana charge and escape from a minimum security prison.
Far be it from me to judge people for selling weed, which is now a regulated and legal thing in California. (OK sure there was some interstate racketeering there too, but still.) Whereas lying on the witness stand and obstructing justice are signs that someone might not be entirely above-board in their business dealings. San Francisco artists looking to display their work at a gallery might want to consider that there are plenty of other fish in the sea.