Lev Nussberg, an artist and art collector, initiated a simple breach of contract action against gallery owner Gary Tatintsian in 2009. Mr. Nussberg claimed that he consigned 98 drawings by Russian Suprematist artists, Kazimir Malevich, Nicholas Suetin and Ilya Chashnik to Gary Tatintsian, a gallery owner. Tatintsian immediately removed all of the works to Russia where he sold them to a party he claimed was a Russian oligarch. Tatintsian admitted he was paid in full by the purchaser.
Faced with the prospect of paying Mr. Nussberg $2.6 million for these drawings, Tatintsian concocted a series of affirmative defenses including accusing Mr. Nussberg of consigning forged art to him. Mr. Nussberg had to wait six years to obtain a judgment against Tatintsian. During the trial, Justice Shirley Kornreich severed claims under other sales contracts with Tatintsian thereby permitting Mr. Nussberg to enter judgment against Tatintsian and his gallery, Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Inc. in the amount of $3,646,496.02, representing the contract amount plus accumulated interest on the 2009 Consignment Contract.
Never willing to pay his debts, Tatintsian appealed the judgment to the Appellate Division, First Department. The First Department affirmed the judgment and found that the lower court should not have permitted Tatintsian to introduce certain expert reports into evidence as these expert reports did not meet the customary standards for experts identifying art. According to the First Department, there never should have been a trial at all.
Again dissatisfied with the results in the First Department, Tatintsian appealed this decision and order to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals denied Tatintsian’s application and awarded costs to Mr. Nussberg. Mr. Nussberg is now finally able to collect the money which was owed to him in 2009.