Scandal Sheet: Nello in Trouble, Again

Friday, December 3, 2010
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Nello Balan, the restauranteur, has seen his fair share of trouble from getting his Madison Avenue eatery shuttered by the IRS for non-payment of taxes to being sued for tip skimming. Now Balan is being sued for a whopping $1.8 million by artist Jerome Lucani over original art Lucani created for the restaurant that Balan promised he would sell and give the artist 60 percent of the sales. Well, it seems Lucani says that Balan hung the celebrity-photo mosaic-style collages on his restaurant’s walls and then passed them off as his own work, selling 10 of the 11 pieces. Balan still claims the disputed art work is his own creation.

Meanwhile, Lucani says his reputation as an artist has been damaged by Balan’s false claim of being the creator of the pieces, but Lucani is forging ahead. He is at Art Basel this weekend where his work is displayed at Scope Art Basel next to anonymous stencil/graffiti artist and cult phenomenon Banksy.

“Nello took advantage of me, stole my artwork, and it feels good to know I’m not alone in confronting him anymore,” Lucarni told AvenueInsider. Lucani and his lawyer say that Balan sold the art through various buyers and sellers like the Keszler Gallery in Southampton, NY and on Madison Avenue. The works sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Expect a fight.

Lucani’s lawyer, Brad Leinhardt adds: “This is a case of an artist getting taken advantage of by a wealthy restaurant owner with a history of transgressions. I intend on seeing this case through.”

Stay tuned.


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