Cady Noland, Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell), 1990, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Cady Noland Sues Collector and Dealers for Copyright Infringement

The artist Cady Noland filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York early last week against the collector Wilhelm Schurmann, Berlin’s KOW Gallery, art advisor and dealer Chris D’Amelio, and art dealer Michael Janssen and his gallery, claiming that the group was responsible for creating a forgery of her sculpture Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (Memorial to John Caldwell), 1990, when a conservator refurbished a great deal of it, as much of the work’s facade and other elements, all made from wood, were afflicted with rot. Noland, who says she was not consulted about the conservation, feels that the sculpture is no longer authentically hers, write Eileen Kinsella and Julia Halperin of Artnet. “Wood can be restored, even rotting wood. This is a forgery,” said Andrew Epstein, the artist’s lawyer.

Noland also claims that her rights were violated under New York’s rarely-litigated Visual Artist Rights Act, which allows artists to disown their own works, especially in situations where the artworks have been improperly restored. Noland says the owner of the piece was responsible for its rough condition, as he was “either negligent or indifferent to the work” and “failed . . . to protect the work from rot, deterioration, and exposure to the elements.” Schurmann loaned the artist’s work to the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, Germany, where it was displayed from 1995 to 2005 in an outdoor courtyard.

Noland was made aware of the work’s repair in 2014, faxing a handwritten note to Scott Mueller, the Ohio collector who subsequently purchased it, that said “this is not an artwork” because she was not consulted about Log Cabin’s renovation. The artist filed her lawsuit on July 18, 2017—almost missing the three-year statute of limitations for making a claim of copyright infringement. (Last year, Mueller tried suing Michael Janssen for $1.4 million over the piece—the amount the collector paid for it—because Noland disowned it. He was, however, only given $600,000 for it because he did not register his complaint with the gallery for more than a year after buying the sculpture.)

Noland wants the piece to be destroyed and demands that the court stop the defendants from disseminating any images of it. She also wants to be paid for damages and receive all profits incurred from the sale of the work.