David Lew, known in the art community as Shark Toof, is suing the city of Los Angeles and the Chinese American Museum for throwing away some of his outdoor artwork two years ago, The Art Newspaper reports.
In May 2018, the Chinese American Museum in L.A. displayed Lew’s piece entitled Shayu De Yi Nian Lai See (Year of the Shark Red Packet). The piece referenced Chinese American immigrants working in the laundry business had 88 canvas totes on washing lines, according to BBC. It was hung up in the courtyard of the museum.
The lawsuit, which Lew’s representatives filed in US District Court in the Central District of California, claims that Lew’s work was abruptly taken down and thrown away in December 2018, The Art Newspaper reports.
“Defendants owed a duty of due care to plaintiff Lew to preserve the 88 pieces of art in the Year of the Shark Red Packet exhibit, and to remove them cautiously in a transparent process to preserve the artwork with Lew’s consultation and participation,” the lawsuit states.
The Friends of the Chinese American Museum who help facilitate and curate exhibits say the museum did nothing wrong.
“However, the Friends of the Chinese American Museum did nothing wrong with respect to the tote bags that decorated the courtyard outside the museum. I look forward to proving that the claims against my client have no merit,” Melvin Avanzado, a lawyer representing the Friends of the Chinese American Museum, told The Los Angeles Times.
Lew is seeking financial damages, although the amount is not specified in the lawsuit, according to The Art Newspaper.
The 88 canvas bags were meant to be sold in the museum after the piece was taken and down. Lew had already promised some to collectors of his work, according to BBC.
“Not being able to see these things after eight months, at the location, was gut-wrenching,” Lew said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.
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