It was billed as a homage to the likes of Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz, but Eggman & Walrus’ Ferus seemed marred from the get-go.
As reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican, leading up to its June 1 opening, two pieces were stolen from the gallery. "Carmen" by artist Wes Naman was later found hanging from a flagpole outside the neighboring Chuck Jones Gallery, while the other piece, a birdhouse that sat atop a sculpture, was damaged beyond repair.
With Eggman owner "on paternity leave" (his baby boy was born on opening night), responsibility for the 27-artist-strong exhibit was left in the hands of curator Jared Antonio-Justo Trujillo.
In the following weeks, a 7-inch bronze sculpture by local artist Prakash, priced at $600 was also lifted, and after being given what he feels was the runaround, Prakash took his case to Facebook.
"Evan Glassman, the owner of Eggman & Walrus is refusing to compensate me in full for the stolen piece," Prakash posted on July 25. By press time, the post had 44 shares.
"I signed off on all liability on the contract [with Trujillo]," Glassman tells SFR. "It was still in my gallery—but it was Jared's show. He curated it. He ran it; it was his whole thing."
Trujillo disagrees. Calling the whole incident "ridiculous," he points the finger back at the gallery owner, alleging it's not the first bridge Glassman has burned. "Prakash is just an innocent bystander," he says.
As far as when exactly the piece went missing, the details are hazy. "Jared called me in early July, I guess. I don't know," Glassman says. Prakash claims not to have been alerted about the situation until a July 14 phone conversation.
"He said the show was coming to an end, but he really liked my stuff and wanted me to leave some of my things [there]," he says. "He was basically…buttering me up, [saying] how great my work was and this and that and blah blah blah."
After offering him a future show with a 60/40 (artist/gallery) split—a better cut than Ferus, which was 50/50—Prakash says Glassman mentioned he had some good news and some bad news: the piece had been stolen.
"[Our policy] is to replace the artwork or work something out with the artist," Glassman says. "I mean, I'm a grassroots gallery."
He also says the figure wasn't listed in the exhibit's inventory list, and that if he'd known about it, he would have scrapped it from the show due to its size.
"Jared didn't want to handle it at all; he knows the guy," Glassman says. "I never met the guy. Jared was like, 'You deal with Prakash'—and now I know why."
Glassman offered to reimburse him $150—half of what the artist's cut would have been had the piece been sold, hoping the curator would pony up the rest. When that didn't happen, the gallerist rounded it up to $200. Prakash didn't budge.
"I understand why Prakash is upset, but he hasn't handled it well; he's been angry and vindictive," Glassman points out. "I feel partly responsible for what happened in my gallery. Legally, am I responsible? No."
Talia Kosh, an attorney who took on Prakash's case free of charge thanks to a referral from New Mexico Lawyers for the Arts, disagrees.
"Even if there is no written agreement, [the gallery] holds the piece in trust," Kosh says. "You have a higher degree of care to take care of that piece than the regular Joe."
Kosh admits that an argument over $100 will never get its day in district court, but says that, for her client, "it's the principle of the matter"—adding that upon securing the amount, it is his intention to donate it to the pro-bono group.
Pensive, Glassman says he has no regrets on how the situation was handled on his end. "I'm trying to look out for the gallery's interest, and also the artist's interests, and that's all I can do."