Donald Judd’s $850,000 sculpture was permanently destroyed due to fingerprints, lawsuits

Donald JuddHe is one of the most influential and important minimalist artists of the post-war period in American law, and is as famous for the negative space his sculptural works contain as he is in statues themselves.

quality precious blanks in his work because he was focused on creating states of turbulent flow, but the tangible materials that make up his creations are, obviously, subject to uncomfortable change. Tuesday, Jude Foundation I filed a lawsuit In Manhattan Supreme Court v. New York-based Tina Kim Gallery and Seoul-based Kukje Gallery, alleging breach of contract related to valuable work by Donald Judd, the foundation says tainted with fingerprints. (The lawsuit was filed by the Judd Foundation in Manhattan, after it was filed season in August in federal court in Texas on judicial cases.)

Judd’s artwork in question, without an address (1991) 91-86, part of the artist Menziken . seriesA series of aluminum cans. Judd once said of the Menzikens, “A box with plexiglass inside is an attempt to make a second, finished surface.” “The inside is radically different from the outside. While the outside is specific and strict, the inside is indefinite.”

In this case, the problem appears to be the outside. The Judd Foundation says it handed over the work in 2015 to Kokjee Gallery/Tina Kim, a joint galleries company.

without an address It was apparently in good condition when shipped, and in 2016, galleries displayed the piece in their booth at Art Basel Miami Beach Before the organization extends the consignment agreement and gets paid for the work It rose to $850,000 in 2017.

In 2018, the lawsuit states that the foundation terminated the mission contract and Kukje Gallery returned Judd’s artwork to the foundation’s headquarters in Marfa, TexasThe restoration specialist spotted fingerprint marks on the spot. Kukje Gallery and Tina Kim Gallery did not respond to requests for comment.

Any fingerprints on an anodized aluminum surface must be removed quickly or over time the oils in fingerprints can react with the surface and leave permanent, discolored and irreversible marks.


The suit states that “Donald Judd was known for his stringent manufacturing standards and for the consistent physical integrity of his artwork.” “While his works are robustly built, the anodized aluminum surface on Menzikens requires very careful handling and if mishandled the marking can be easily done. In particular, gloves are required when handling the works. Any fingerprints on the anodized aluminum surface should be quickly removed or Over time, the oils in fingerprints can react with the surface and leave permanent, discolored, and irreversible marks.”

In the 2022 case, the complaint states that Tina Kim and Kokjee received case reports from technical storage company UOVO stating that without an address They had fingerprints in two places, as well as a “small defect on the right panel,” but they did not share those reports with the Judd Foundation. The complaint states that when the foundation’s restoration official finally assessed the damage to the work, it was determined that it was irreversible. UOVO did not respond to Daily Beast’s request for comment.

Although ostensibly masculine and stoic, Judd’s work has proven highly vulnerable to damage. In 1973, the artist described himself as having a “cheerful vengeful spirit” directed at museum guards and museum staff who Mishandled his workand had strict manufacturing standards for his work, regardless of the material and its potential for rapid wear.

“Someone was putting more prints on one end of a piece of me in 1969’s Metropolitan Splendor while the other was being cleaned,” Judd wrote, also at 73. “The guard said nothing. Nor did he object to someone walking on a perforated piece of metal. It came again submissive.”

In its new complaint, the Judd Foundation alleges that the defendant’s galleries were in breach of contract: during their possession of the artwork, at one point it was allegedly mishandled, leading the Foundation to seek compensation for the full value of the artwork, approximately $750,000 from Tina Gallery’s insurance company. Kim.

According to the complaint, while the insurance company has paid the foundation about 80 percent of the amount, Tina Kim has yet to pay 20 percent of the $850,000 retail price she owes the foundation. Judd representatives declined to comment. Tina Kim Gallery and Kokji Gallery did not respond to requests for comment.

With a fingerprint, the object became not only itself, but itself in addition to a person.

Jim Harris

“Insurance companies don’t like to write checks, so their decision to write a very important check certainly seems to me meaningful in terms of any damage to the sculpture,” Nicholas M. O’Donnell, partner at Sullivan & Worcester LLP and a member of the Art Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association, said. For The Daily Beast.

“Judd hates fingerprints,” Jim Harris, Curator of Teaching, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at the Ashmolean Museum, clearer in 2018. “With a fingerprint, not only did the object become itself, it was itself in addition to another person.”

Judd’s artwork isn’t the only asset that has proven vulnerable: in April, the Marfa home the artist had bought in 1990 was burned to the ground; Two adults inside the house and their little one narrowly escaped. In 2021Judd Architects’ Office, also located in the harbor, caught fire in the middle of the night and was destroyed, although no artwork was lost in the fire.

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