Real Housewives of Ransom



I love it when some of my favourite things come together.  This week I was treated to the uniting of art and trashy reality TV (hey, everyone has vices).  One I follow pretty consistently, no less – Bravo’s Real Housewives of New York.  Even better that it was about a character I don’t particularly care for – Aviva Drescher.  For those of you that don’t know the show, Aviva is often portrayed as being caught up in drama and lies (aren’t they all?) and was recently fired for vaulting her prosthetic leg across the table at a fellow cast member.  Whether that’s her personality or ratings-worthy editing is up in the air, but allegations foisted this week from artist Matthew Satz (reports differ as to whether he’s based in Long Island or the Hamptons) query whether we really do see the real Aviva on TV.
Satz filed a lawsuit against Drescher and her husband indicating that they here holding pieces of his work for ransom. Satz had agreed to allow the couple to display some of his pieces in their home during the taping of the series – free of charge. It’s worth noting here that Satz isn’t some brand new artist on the scene with no sales. He’s a MoMA PS1 featured artist, he has completed commissioned work for the Prince of Monaco, and his work hangs in Manhattan’s Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. Art dealers sell his work. His purpose in having the display was to get further exposure. It would not have been shocking if Satz were to have asked for a fee in displaying his work. Nonetheless, he did allow its display free of charge.

So where does this alleged ransom come in? A friend of Drescher’s purchased one of the paintings Pink Smoke Painting for $50,000 from the artist while it was still hanging in the Drescher home. The problem? The couple wouldn’t let it be removed until they had been paid a commission. No commission had been agreed upon or even spoken about before this (*cough*cough* wasn’t contemplated in the meeting of the minds), so there was no binding contract on which they could claim a breach and ensuing reason to withhold the work from its creator. It is unclear what legal principle the Dreschers plan to rely on to fight this claim, but I suspect whatever it is won’t work.

Interestingly Drescher brought down her “commission” from $10,000 to $5,000 and ultimately suggested $2,500 and being allowed to keep two smaller works. Her husband also suggested they just raise the price from $50,000 to $60,000, Aviva chiming in that the buyer “could afford it.” Satz didn’t agree to this due to feeling dishonest about having to present that plan to the buyer (at least someone has a conscience here). Despite the fact that Satz had so much trouble getting the work back that he had to file a lawsuit, Avia contends that she gave him permission to pick the work up. Clearly someone isn’t telling the truth. #classicAviva