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Nov 05 2020

Artist Demands Compensation from Shanghai Private Museum for Unreturned Artworks

by Pamela Wong

The artist GORDON CHEUNG pictured (furthest right) at his 2010 solo exhibition at Shanghai’s Other Gallery with, from right to left, curator RAUL ZAMUDIO, Other Gallery owner and How Art Museum founder ZHENG HAO, and Zheng’s wife. Courtesy the artist.

London-based artist Gordon Cheung has spoken out in recent months about his decade-long dispute with businessman and art collector Zheng Hao, the founder of Shanghai’s private How Art Museum, over a collection of his works exhibited at Zheng’s now-closed Other Gallery in 2010. According to the artist, these artworks have not been returned to him nor has Zheng or the gallery ever settled payments for the works. Cheung also believes that Zheng made copies of his works and displayed them in the rooms of his hotels without Cheung’s knowledge or consent.

Speaking to ArtAsiaPacific, Cheung said that he consigned 20 works—15 paintings, four sculptures, and one video—for his September solo exhibition, “The Sleeper Awakes,” at Shanghai’s Other Gallery. According to him, while three paintings were sold during the one-year consignment period, and one painting was returned to him shortly after the exhibition by the show’s curator, Raul Zamudio, the other works remained in the possession of the Shanghai gallery and then, following its 2017 closure, with the then-newly opened How Art Museum. After multiple failed attempts to reach an agreement over the past decade, the artist is now demanding that the How Art Museum return all of his works and pay associated shipping costs, fees incurred due to legal disputes, as well as compensation for the mishandling and illegal usage of his works. If the Museum wishes to keep the works, Cheung is asking them to be purchased at today’s value, which he places at USD 569,450.

When AAP reached out to How Art Museum, a spokesperson for the Museum replied on November 5 saying, “How Art Museum was established in 2017, and has never worked with any artist called Zhang Yibin [the artist’s Chinese name] or Gordon Cheung. Recently we have also noticed that the Instagram account with the ID GordonCheung has continuously posted malicious and false accusation against the Museum, for which we have already contacted our lawyers. At the same time, we reserve the right to pursue legal liability for such false allegations.”

Cheung has publicly decried Zheng and the Museum in posts since July, detailing his situation on various social media platforms, including his Instagram account, and also calling for more legal protection for young artists. According to Cheung, in April 2012, Zheng offered to purchase the remaining 11 paintings with a 20 percent discount for a total of GBP 65,450 (USD 104,800), which Cheung said he “had no choice but to agree.” In September 2013, Zheng paid Cheung GBP 21,500 (USD 34,000), one-third of the agreed amount, and then deferred subsequent payments. Cheung says he had to save up for years to hire an attorney, which he did in 2019. When his lawyer reached out to the legal representative of How Art Museum and Other Gallery for negotiations that same year, Zheng’s representative agreed in November 2019 to a payment schedule for the balance, only to not send any further payments, citing the coronavirus pandemic that began in late January 2020 as a reason for cash flow difficulties.

In July of this year, when Cheung’s lawyer spoke to Zheng via a phone call, Zheng allegedly denied all prior negotiations with Cheung’s lawyer, although claimed he was willing to settle the remaining GBP 43,950 (USD 57,700) balance with another 20 percent discount. Zheng also claims to not know the whereabouts of the four sculptures by Cheung consigned to Other Gallery.

According to the artist, some of Cheung’s works have been used by Zheng in various business activities without Cheung’s consent. Reproduced copies of several works have also used as decoration in Zheng’s luxurious Onehome Art Hotel, which is situated next to How Art Museum, and in his Wenzhou Onehome Hotel, according to hotel room images found on booking sites such as Tripadvisor and Trip.com.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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