A total of 50 missing works by 10 Australian artists provided to Koenig had been identified by Alana Kushnir, an art lawyer who took on the case against the former gallerist on a pro bono basis. These are all paintings the artists say they weren’t paid for and never returned for.
Since this masthead first reported on the Koenig case and the missing works last December, 23 of the missing works have been found. This is mainly due to the good conscience of collectors like Westcott who were horrified to learn that none of the money they paid Koenig for the artwork went to the artists.
A Melbourne collector who asked not to be named said he saw two paintings he bought from Koenig among a gallery of missing works published by age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He said he was also shocked to learn that it is common for gallery owners to take a 50% commission on the paintings they sell.
“I don’t want to have something hanging on my wall at home that an artist hasn’t been paid to do,” the collector said. His solution was to purchase additional works directly from the artists so that they would receive the full proceeds of the sale to offset what was owed to them by Koenig.
In other cases, artists were simply happy to know that their work was safe and admired. Birchall says Westcott offered to pay him for the painting she bought from Koenig but he refused. “The offer was nice but I felt a little uncomfortable. She shouldn’t have to pay twice for it.
When Andrew and Nicola Forrest read that Koenig had failed to pay Sydney artist Lara Merrett for two works that hung at the family business’s headquarters in Perth, they stepped in to make sure the artist was not left aside.
Other collectors are taking Koenig to court.
Victoria Police last week contacted Koenig by phone who, after failing to respond to a summons to Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, has a warrant issued for his arrest. His last known address was an apartment in Richmond.
The court issued two default orders totaling $11,717 against Koenig sought by collectors who purchased but never received works by Texas-based artist Jon Joanis from Koenig.
Separately, Victoria Civil and Administrative Court ordered Koenig to pay the money he owes Harry Mcalpine, a New Zealand artist based in Melbourne.
Patrick Keyser, a Melbourne-based lawyer briefed by Simchowitz, said the LA dealership was determined to sue Koenig for the $52,000 he had owed him since 2017, plus five years of interest.
The final turning point for Westcott came when she discovered that one of her Petra Cortright prints could not be authenticated. This meant that a $15,000 piece of art was worthless. To make amends, Simchowitz’s Australian agent is traveling from Sydney to Melbourne with a new Cortright impression this week.