Commercial art gallery

Twiggy Forrest steps in to help artist stolen by gallery owner Tristian Koenig

“The Forrest family bought two works of art in good faith through the gallery owner in question,” said a spokesperson for the family. “Immediately after learning that the artist may not have been paid for one of the paintings, the Forrest family contacted the artist to resolve the issue.

“The Minderoo Foundation recognizes the challenges faced by independent and individual artists and the difficulties in maintaining sustainable artistic careers. “

Koenig did not respond to questions from Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Art dealer and gallery owner Tristian Koenig.

The former gallery owner is currently facing two default orders for breach of contract issued by the Melbourne Magistrates Court following legal action by aggrieved collectors and potentially, a criminal investigation into the allegations made by two artists in statements to Victoria Police.

One of those artists, Elyss McCleary, took matters into his own hands this week by attending an inspection visit to Koenig’s last known address and removing two of his paintings from the living room of a downtown property. from Melbourne.

Like other collectors who have dealt with Koenig, Andrew and Nicola Forrest had no idea that an artist might not have been paid for a work hanging on their walls. Merrett said she tried several times to take the money out of Koenig, but didn’t feel comfortable approaching the Forrests directly.

Lara Merrett spent most of two years chasing payment for a painting now hanging at Andrew Forrest's family headquarters in Perth.

Lara Merrett spent most of two years chasing payment for a painting now hanging at Andrew Forrest’s family headquarters in Perth.

“Once a painting leaves your studio, it’s really in the gallery’s custody,” says Merrett. “They are your point of contact. Artists do not speak directly to buyers; everything goes through the gallery and that’s why they get 50%.

Vibrant: the second of two paintings by Lara Merrett purchased by the Forrest family in 2020.

Vibrant: the second of two paintings by Lara Merrett purchased by the Forrest family in 2020.

“The gallery is looking after you and you have to have the full confidence that it is doing everything in your best interests. I was just shocked that even when you have the security of your work in a large collection, there are no guarantees.

Age and Sydney Morning Herald Last week, six contemporary Australian artists, including Merrett, sued Koenig for money they claim owe for sold works and 39 “missing” works of art – paintings they provided Koenig on consignment there. years ago and they haven’t seen it since.


Under his agreement with the artists, Koenig was entitled to keep 50 percent of the proceeds of any painting he sold. This is normal practice for a shopping mall.

Since the story was first published, a number of collectors have contacted the artists to tell them they have “missing” paintings on their walls. Materials provided by collectors to Alana Kushnir, an art law expert who assists pro bono artists, add weight to what artists have long suspected; that Koenig sold their work without telling them and donned the product.

“This means that there is more money owed to the artists for the works that have been sold,” Kushnir explains. “We are in this really complicated situation. What do artists get and what do collectors owe them, if they [the buyers] feel like they’ve already paid a fair price? “

Merrett says she has proof that Koenig unwittingly sold four of her missing works for $ 16,250. His current gallery, Sullivan and Strumpf, valued the works at $ 33,000 and is in negotiations with buyers to make up the difference in order to remunerate the artist.

In a separate development, a collector came forward after reading a follow-up story in Age and Sydney Morning Herald to reveal that they have a series of missing works by Los Angeles-based artist Petra Cortright.

The works were exhibited by Koenig four years ago and appear to have been sold by Koenig for around US $ 50,000. Hollywood gallery owner Stefan Simchowitz, the former owner of Cortright’s works, said he was not aware of the sale and has not received any payment from Koenig. He is now in discussion with local buyers.

Australian Catholic University Dean Patrick Keyzer, briefed by Simchowitz to help recover Cortright’s artwork, has confirmed they have been found.

“I saw the works and received documents that will allow Stefan Simchowitz and his team to work with the people who purchased the art to find a solution to this fiasco,” he said. “The collectors who contacted me were absolutely mortified.

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