November 1, 2017 / 9:28 PM / a year ago

New York gallery for 'Nina' caricaturist Hirschfeld breached contract: judge

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a non-profit exhibiting art by Al Hirschfeld had the right to terminate its contract with a Manhattan gallery that had sold works by the late theater and screen caricaturist for more than four decades.

FILE PHOTO: Legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, 98, speaks with a reporter, prior to an exhibition of his works at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. on October 24, 2001. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen/File Photo

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said Margo Feiden Galleries materially breached its 2000 licensing agreement with the Al Hirschfeld Foundation by selling unauthorized copies of works depicting Carol Burnett, Bob Hope and other subjects, and by losing 20 original works that had been consigned to it.

While not resolving all claims, the Manhattan judge ordered both sides to “take stock of their respective interests” and discuss a potential settlement within two weeks, rather than “invest significantly” in further litigation over damages.

Siddartha Rao, a lawyer for Feiden, declined immediate comment, saying he had yet to speak with his client.

“We’re pleased with the decision, and are mindful of the need to work out terms,” Keith Sherman, a spokesman for the Hirschfeld Foundation, said in an interview.

Hirschfeld had been known for hiding the name of his daughter Nina several times in his caricatures.

Finding the Ninas became a popular activity for readers of The New York Times, which regularly published Hirschfeld’s works, and other fans of the artist, who died in 2003 at age 99.

The Hirschfeld Foundation had challenged, among other things, Feiden’s sale of “giclees,” which were high-quality reproductions printed on ink jet printers.

Examples included prints of Hope that were sold by Time Life for $199.99, and otherwise identical to a 1988 limited edition print worth $5,000, court papers show.

Hirschfeld himself had signed the 2000 agreement, which resolved an earlier dispute with Margo Feiden, who had begun selling his works in 1969.

The Al Hirschfeld Foundation was set up in 2004 to promote interest in the theater and dramatic arts.

The case is Al Hirschfeld Foundation v Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-04135.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Diane Craft

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