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A vase by Chu Teh-Chun. Photo: Marlborough Gallery.
A vase by Chu Teh-Chun. Photo: Marlborough Gallery.

Enrico Navarra Gallery Sues Marlborough Gallery for $18 Million

Paris–based gallery Enrico Navarra is seeking more than $18 million from New York’s Marlborough Gallery, over losses sustained from the work of late Chinese-French artist, Chu Teh-Chun. Continuing a dispute that goes back over ten years, Navarra’s suit, which he filed on Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges that Marlborough meddled in an agreement between Navarra and Chu, resulting in the artist’s denouncement of a set of 816 ceramic plates as forgeries. 

Navarro had financially backed the plates’ production in 2003, and the Paris gallery claims that had Marlborough not interfered and convinced Chu to claim his works were inauthentic, they would each be worth $22,000, or $18 million for the full set.

Navarro believes that Chu was pressured to act by Marlborough Gallery, which struck a similar agreement with the artist in 2007 to produce fifty-seven ceramic vases. The same year, Chu sent his Paris dealer a cease and desist letter to stop producing any of his ceramics, cancel future exhibitions, and to return any unsold works; Chu also accused Navarro of failing to pay royalties, and filed a suit against the dealer in 2007. 

Furthermore, Chu sent an email to Christie’s Hong Kong in 2008 claiming twelve plates were forgeries, rendering them unsalable. “The damages from that breach–tantamount in consequence to smashing the entire stock of plates on the floor–have been total and devastating,” the complaint states.

Navarro believes Marlborough was behind these actions, as a means to end Chu’s relations to other galleries and limit market competition. Marlborough has denied involvement with Chu’s aforementioned actions.

Chu’s works have commanded significant sums in the past decade; in 2016, his painting diptych Vertige Neigeux (Snowy Vertigo), 1990–99, fetched $11.8 million, a new record for the artist, at Christie’s Hong Kong. 

This week’s complaint does not note the result of Chu’s lawsuit against the Navarra Gallery, though it does state Navarra brought a federal complaint against Marlborough in 2010. The current case was allowed to move forward by the Second Circuit in 2018, based on their judgment that Navarro had enough evidence to warrant a lawsuit.

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