Legal woes mount for Aspen Art Gallery, owner
The Aspen Art Gallery and its owner have been stung with civil allegations that the gallery cheated a former Playboy model out of proper compensation for her artwork that sold for $100,000.
Nadaleena Mirat Brettmann’s lawsuit is the latest legal action taken against the gallery and its owner, Damian Guillot, who also is embroiled in a court feud with his ex-general manager over claims of defamation and drug dealing.
Guillot was not at the Aspen Art Gallery or his Denver gallery Friday. His attorney, Chad Schmidt, also did not return a telephone message.
“We gave the gallery a chance to settle very reasonably before filing this lawsuit,” said Aspen lawyer Jeff Wertz, who represents Brettmann. Wertz also is counsel for Timothy Huber, the gallery’s former manager, in his suit against the South Mill Street storefront and Guillot.
Brettmann’s suit was filed Thursday, Huber’s in September. Pitkin County District Court is the venue for both complaints.
Brettmann’s suit claims that on Dec. 30, the Aspen Art Gallery sold a piece of artwork titled “Breaking the Waves V” to a Los Angeles couple. The piece fetched $100,000, and Brettmann and Guillot had a contract in which half of the proceeds would go to the gallery and the other half to the artist. But Brettmann received just $35,000 on Jan. 14, the suit says.
When confronted Jan. 20, Guillot sent Brettmann a text message claiming that the $100,000 sum included other artwork, which wasn’t Brettmann’s, that was sold to the buyers, according to the suit.
“Guillot’s … text to plaintiff is nothing less than a blatant attempt to obfuscate and lie to the plaintiff to coverup the fact that the defendants shorted the plaintiff no less than $15,000,” the suit says.
Brettmann pulled the rest of her artwork from the gallery, says the suit, which also accuses the business of having a “pattern and a history of not paying artists their full due after sales of art at the gallery.”
While appearing in overseas editions of Playboy, Brettmann has gone by the name “Nada Mirat.” In the U.S., she has gained wide acclaim since launching her professional art career in 2012.
Her suit makes seven claims for relief. Among them are civil theft, unjust enrichment, fraud and breach of contract.
The other complaint against Guillot, filed by Huber, alleges that the gallery owner wrongfully accused Huber 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.
On Sept. 12, Guillot fired back with a countersuit, accusing Huber of trying to lure away Aspen Art Gallery artists to a new gallery he had planned to open. Huber persuaded the artists to join him by telling them that Guillot was a broke drug dealer who was in trouble with the IRS and under suspicion by Homeland Security, according to the countersuit.
“Mr. Huber has made the false and disparaging statements with the intent to cause Aspen Art Gallery harm to its business, property. … Mr. Huber has published the false and disparaging statements with malice,” the countersuit says.
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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.