Aspen artist sues gallery owner for sexual assault, civil theft
The owner of Aspen Art Gallery was slapped with another lawsuit Thursday, this time by an artist who accused him of sexual assault and civil theft, along with a host of other allegations.
The owner, Damian Guillot, was at his Mill Street gallery prepping for the holiday week and said the latest civil complaint has no merit. He declined to go into details.
“My counsel have advised me not to speak about any specific allegations, all of which I totally disagree with,” Guillot said in a prepared statement he gave to The Aspen Times. “I am shocked and appalled by the allegations and look forward to my day in court. I believe these suits are without foundation and appear to be the result of actions taken by a disgruntled former salesperson and artists, all of whom are no longer affiliated with Aspen Art Gallery.
“The sole agenda of these individuals appears to be discrediting Aspen Art Gallery.”
Aspen artist Rosalyn Pergande’s suit was filed in Pitkin County District Court by attorney Jeff Wertz.
She offered a prepared statement as well.
“It was a difficult decision for me to open up publicly about my experience with Damian over the years,” Pergande said. “His actions have emotionally and financially affected me and my family. One thing that motivated me to take this stand is that I need to be a good example of a strong woman to my daughter. She won’t understand it now, but when she gets older, I want her to know she can always have the courage to speak up if someone should ever do ill will towards her. I pray this never happens to my daughter.
“From now on, I will show strength in a time of trials for myself, my family and other women that have been mistreated.”
Pergande’s suit comes after Wertz filed a complaint Nov. 14 on behalf of a former Playboy model-turned-artist, Nadaleena Mirat Brettmann, of Denver, who alleged Guillot cheated her out of the proper compensation for her artwork that sold for $100,000. On Dec. 3, Guillot’s law firm, Garfield & Hecht, filed a motion to dismiss the suit.
Wertz also represents Aspen resident Timothy Huber, the gallery’s former manager, in his suit against the gallery and Guillot. Huber’s suit claims that Guillot wrongfully accused him of stealing artwork and money from the gallery. Huber was fired in July, the suit says. Huber’s suit accuses Guillot of defamation and outrageous conduct.
“It’s more of the same,” Wertz said. “The way that gallery is doing business, clearly it looks like it has a pattern.”
Unlike the accusations of Guillot low-balling his artists, Pergande’s sexual-assault claim had not surfaced publicly until Thursday’s filing.
Pergande’s suit accuses Guillot of trying to “digitally penetrate” her on March 9, 2012, at the art gallery. “These actions by Guillot were outrageous and offensive by any standard of decent human behavior,” the suit says.
Additionally, the suit claims that the gallery sold “several of (Pergande’s) paintings” and didn’t pay her the full 50 percent commission that she was owed.
Aspen Police Department detective Ian MacAyeal told The Aspen Times he had received reports this past year from artists who said they’d been fleeced by Guillot, but he said he determined there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the case criminally. Pergande’s sexual-assault allegations weren’t revealed in a three-page report MacAyeal wrote about the investigation, which involved the detective’s interviews of multiple artists and Huber.
“I determined that this is a civil case,” MacAyeal wrote in his Oct. 24 report. “There’s no probable cause to arrest Guillot in a ‘he said, she said,’ business transaction with no contract nor consistent deception practices by Guillot.”
Wertz, asked why the sexual-assault allegation didn’t appear in MacAyeal’s investigation report, declined to discuss the matter.
“I really can’t comment,” he said.
Pergande said she did complain to police. She also said she kept her artwork with the gallery after the alleged assault because she was confident and comfortable with Huber as the gallery’s manager. She also said she was fearful of retaliation from Guillot if she pulled her work.
Pergande’s art pieces continued to be sold at the gallery as late as 2014.
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The Wheeler Opera House will remain dark into 2021, with current COVID-19 public health orders in place. Meanwhile, the masonry work on the exterior of the building will continue into July.