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Artist Sues Five New York Museums for Manipulating the Contemporary Art Market

American artist Robert Cenedella—the subject of the 2016 documentary Art Bastard, who is known for his satirical sociopolitical works—has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against five major arts institutions over their alleged manipulation of the contemporary art market.

In an eighteen-page filing, Cenedella, a professor at the Art Students League of New York, is accusing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art of “unlawful conspiracy.” Claiming that the institutions are part of a “corporate museum cartel,” the artist believes they are trying “to increase prices for certain contemporary art within domestic and international art markets while suppressing prices for the plaintiff” and other artists.

“The system today—put in place by galleries, auction houses, and art critiques—has nothing to do with talent, development of skill, or maturation of the art world,” Cenedella told Chris Dolmetsch of Bloomberg. Ultimately, Cenedella is claiming that these institutions only promote artists whose works are in their collections, creating a closed system; as the reputations of the artists grow, so does the value of the institutions’ holdings. Cenedella is asking for $100 million in damages.