More paintings found as rogue gallery owner goes missing

A total of 50 missing works by 10 Australian artists provided to Koenig had been identified by Alana Kushnir, a solicitor who specialises in art law and has taken on the case against the former gallery owner pro bono. These are all paintings that artists say they were not paid for and never had returned.

Since this masthead first reported on the case of Koenig and the missing artworks last December, 23 of the missing works have been found. This is mostly due to the good conscience of collectors like Westcott who were horrified to learn that none of the money they paid Koenig for the artworks had gone to the artists.

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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 The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He said he was also shocked to learn that it is commonplace for gallery owners to take a 50 per cent 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 for,” the collector said. His solution was to buy additional work directly from the artists so they received the entirety of the sale proceeds to make up for what they were owed by Koenig.

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In other cases, the artists were simply happy to know their work was safe and being admired. Birchall says Westcott offered to pay him for the painting she bought from Koenig but he declined. “The offer was lovely but I felt a bit uncomfortable. She shouldn’t have to pay twice for it.”

When Andrew and Nicola Forrest read that Koenig had not paid Sydney artist Lara Merrett for two works hanging in the family’s company headquarters in Perth, they intervened to make sure the artist was not left out of pocket.

Other collectors are pursuing Koenig through the courts.

Victoria Police made telephone contact last week with Koenig who, after failing to answer a summons before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, has a warrant issued for his arrest. His last known address was an apartment in Richmond.

The court has issued two default orders totalling $11,717 against Koenig requested by collectors who bought but never received from Koenig works by Texas-based artist Jon Joanis.

Separately, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ordered Koenig to pay the money he owes to Harry Mcalpine, a New Zealand artist based in Melbourne.

Patrick Keyser, a Melbourne-based barrister briefed by Simchowitz, says the LA dealer is determined to pursue Koenig for the $52,000 he says he owes him from 2017, plus five years of interest.

The final twist for Westcott came when she discovered that one of her Petra Cortright prints could not be authenticated. This meant that a $US15,000 artwork was now worthless. To make amends, Simchowitz’s Australian-based agent travelling from Sydney to Melbourne with a new Cortright print this week.

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