A Vancouver-based art dealer’s lawsuit involving photos of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky taken by American artist Andy Warhol is moving ahead.
In 1983, Frans Wynans, founder of Vancouver-based fine art dealer Cascadia Fine Art, entered into an agreement with Gretzky and Warhol for rights to artwork that Warhol was to create from Polaroid photos he took of Gretzky that year.
Wynans paid Gretzky’s personal service corporation $50,000 and Warhol US$175,000 to obtain certain rights to the art, including six paintings, 300 limited addition prints signed by Gretzky and Warhol, and 50,000 posters.
According to court documents, Warhol took the photos and created the paintings, prints and “presumably” the posters, and Wynans marketed them as outlined in the agreement.
Warhol died in 1987, and as stated in his will, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was to receive most of his estate, including the photographs of Gretzky and unpublished prints.
Wynans filed a civil claim in 2013, arguing the foundation was marketing the Polaroids in breach of its agreement and that he should be paid damages. He amended the claim to include the unpublished prints in 2015. The Warhol foundation denied Wynans had any rights to the material.
After five years of delays on both sides, the foundation applied to have the claim dismissed because Wynans was taking so long.
Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey B. Gomery ruled the art dealer had failed to take steps to move the matter forward, and so caused an “excessive” and “inexcusable” delay.
The judge said the foundation can reapply to dismiss the lawsuit if Wynans has not issued a notice of trial within 60 days or if he decides to apply to adjourn the trial.
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