Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz has fallen afoul of her erstwhile saviors, Art Capital Group. Last year, Art Capital lent her $24 million in return for the right to sell her art and homes; now it is saying that the artist refuses to follow through on her obligations. Art Capital Group has filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Art Capital Group Inc. v Leibovitz).
Last year, when Liebovitz originally sought Art Capital Group's help, she was beset by tax liens, mortgages and other unpaid bills. The company, which provides financial and investment banking services to artists, art collectors and other participants in the art market, agreed to help her through her financial straits. To secure the $24 million loan, Leibovitz pledged as collateral her artwork, photography archives, and real estate (in Greenwich Village and Rhinebeck, NY). The complaint filed by Art Capital Group also states that the collateral includes every photo she has taken – from John Lennon to a nude, pregnant Demi Moore. A default, according to the agreement, would allow Art Capital Group to sell the collateral. Yet, the financiers allege that Leibovitz is trying extract herself from her contractual obligations. They say she hasn't paid several hundred thousand dollars, wouldn't let real estate agents access her properties and is generally getting in the way of Art Capital Group's divestiture efforts.
Leibovitz, who hasn't commented directly, said through a spokesman that Art Capital Group's position is not correct. The statement continues, "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." The message characterizes Art Capital Group's behavior as "harassment" and "attention-getting efforts."
In the unfolding "war of the spokesmen," Art Capital Group's Montieth Illingworth, calls the situation "disappointing and unfortunate," while saying that Leibovitz has breached her contact.
Liebovitz picked up the loan in September 2008, consuming $5 million of a credit line for $22 million. In December of that year, Art Capital Group upped her credit line to $24 million, from which she consumed another $18.9 million.
Now, Art Capital Group is looking for $24 million and fees and interest. She has until September 8, 2009 to deliver the cash, though the Art Capital Group believes that Leibovitz won't be able to deliver.