Artist’s Aspen widow sues dealer, galleries
June 11, 2012
ASPEN – The Aspen widow of a renowned artist is suing a handful of galleries on allegations that they sold and reproduced his work without her permission, making more than $3 million in profit in the process.
Lou Lou Goss, whose husband Earl Biss died in 1998, filed the copyright-infringement lawsuit May 31 in the U.S. District Court of Denver. Biss is regarded as a key contributor to 20th-century Southwestern art. His works have reportedly sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
Goss is the sole owner of all of Biss’ works, the suit claims, noting she “is the surviving spouse, the personal representative, and sole heir of Earl Biss.”
Goss’ suit identifies art dealer Paul Zueger, who runs galleries in New Mexico and Colorado – including Aspen, Breckenridge and Vail – as reproducing and selling Biss’ works without Goss’ authority.
“Defendants know, and reasonably should know, that Plaintiff’s or Earl Biss’s permission was or is required to reproduce copies of, to distribute, to sell and publicly display copies of the Biss Works.”
Biss’ art has been illegally reproduced in the form or poster, giclees, serigraphs, sculptures, Internet postings and a book, the suit alleges.
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In addition to Zueger, the suit names nine of his art galleries as defendants, along with 20 “John Does” “who have acted alone or in consort with one or more of the other Defendants to reproduce, distribute copies of, and to engage in the unauthorized display of the Biss works,” the suit says.
The suit asks that the defendants pay $150,000 for each alleged copyright infringement of Biss’ artwork, noting that he “is a world renowned Crow Indian artist.”
“Due to the historical and cultural position of the artist, the immense aesthetic appeal of his work, his popularity among collectors, the strength of his market, and other factors both tangible and not, original Biss art works can sell for tons of, if not hundreds of, thousands of dollars, and the reproductions thereof frequently sell for prices of many thousands of dollars,” the suit says.
Zueger, meanwhile, had done business with Biss in the past, but the dealings were “turbulent” and “troubled,” the suit claims, noting that the two split ways in 1997.
Messages left at Zueger’s Aspen Grove Fine arts gallery in Aspen, and his Denver business, American Design Ltd., which also is named as a defendant in the suit, were not returned last week.
The suit was filed by the Maryland-based law firm Intellectual Property Group PLLC.