A Mayfair art gallery and a Norwegian tycoon are locked in a High Court battle worth £2
million over a Andy Warhol painting.
The 1978 piece is from Warhol’s Shadows series, which marked a departure from the pop
art that made him famous.
The painting was due to be sold by the Hay Hill Gallery off Berkeley Square, with three
collectors already reported to have shown an interest. Hay Hill’s director, Mikhail Zaitsev,
now claims that the artwork has gone missing and has accused the owner, Tor Uppstrom,
of attempting to avoid paying commission on the sale.
The painting, which went on display in London last summer, has been described as
a ‘beautiful example of compelling, almost hypnotic power’. Warhol named his Shadows
series as ‘disco décor’ because ‘the opening party had a disco.’
Speaking on behalf of Hay Hill gallery, Mr Zaitsev said: ‘Our reputation has been damaged
by this as buyers will think we cannot deliver on what we promise. We had a legal
agreement with Mr Uppstrom and we expect him to honour the contract or pay us what we
Mr Uppstrom initially loaned the painting to the gallery as part of a 40-strong Warhol
collection, at a cost of £184,000. The gallery argues that it paid for the loan under the
agreement that if it sold any of the pieces, it would earn commission on the sale.
The gallery is claiming that a collector agreed to pay £3.5 million for the Shadows as
part of a collection with other artworks. Before the sale could be completed however, Mr
Uppstrom reportedly asked for the painting to be sent to Switzerland and back to avoid
Mr Zaitsev said: ‘We had a client ready. We had an agreement it would be sent back within
a few weeks. It never returned.’
Hay Hill is seeking £2.1 million in damages after the £3.5 million deal fell through, as the
collector would not buy the other paintings without the Shadows.
Mr Uppstrom could not be reached for comment.