NEW YORK Annie Leibovitz and her studio have been sued by Art Capital Group, a financial services company that loaned Leibovitz $24 million last year. The suit claims Leibovitz isn’t paying back the loan and isn’t giving Art Capital access to her collateral — which includes her two houses and her photo archive. Her archive alone is estimated to be worth more than the loan.
The suit, filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court, New York County, seeks a court order requiring Leibovitz to comply with the terms of the loan, plus unspecified fees and damages.
Reached by phone Thursday, Leibovitz attorney Rachel E. Williams declined to comment. A spokesperson for Leibovitz released a statement Thursday afternoon: “The claims in the lawsuit are false and untrue. This is part of Art Capital’s continued harassment and attention-getting efforts. There has been tension and dispute since the beginning. Annie is in the same shoes as many other people involved with Art Capital. For now, her attention remains on her photography and on continuing to organize her finances.”
Last September, Leibovitz took out a $22 million loan from American Photography, a division of Art Capital Group. Leibovitz later exercised an option to increase the loan to $24 million. Under the terms of the loan, she was supposed to pay it back by September 8, 2009.
As collateral, Leibovitz put forward her home and studio in Manhattan’s West Village and her home in Rhinebeck, N.Y. She also offered all her “fine art and intellectual property” — which includes the physical prints of Leibovitz’s photographs as well as the rights to her images.
At the time, Leibovitz was facing a “dire financial situation” due to mortgage obligations, tax liens and unpaid bills, according to the lawsuit. Two photography services companies filed separate lawsuits against Leibovitz last year, citing a total of $778,000 in unpaid bills. Both suits are still pending.
The suit filed this week alleges that Leibovitz failed to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments. Art Capital Group depicts Leibovitz as uncooperative — refusing requests to give real estate agents access to her property, and rebuffing Art Capital Group’s efforts to act as an agent selling her photographs.
“Ms. Leibovitz and the Leibovitz entities now seemingly pretend that they do not understand the sales agreement and seek to ignore their obligations under it,” the suit says.
The suit calls Leibovitz’s behavior “nonsensical,” since the value of her “fine art collateral” exceeds the amount of the loan. If sold, it “would not only allow defendants to satisfy their loan and other obligations to plaintiff and its affiliate, but also allow Leibovitz to earn a profit and to obtain financial comfort and financial stability going forward.”
Leibovitz has said little publicly in the last few months, but acknowledged she was having “difficult times” in an acceptance speech at the International Center of Photography Infinity Awards this past May.
Read the complaint, via Gawker