Larry Gagosian Thought the ‘Cruel and Offensive’ E-mail Was ‘Cruel,’ but Also ‘Amusing’

The work in question, Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Girl in Mirror.’ (Courtesy Christie’s)

Earlier today David Baum, a lawyer representing plaintiff Jan Cowles in her ongoing lawsuit against Larry Gagosian and his gallery, filed papers that seek to unearth Mr. Gagosian’s financial records and includes Mr. Gagosian’s complete deposition in the case, which took place a few weeks ago. It offers a fascinating look at the dealer’s business model. In it, Mr. Gagosian describes Gagosian Gallery director Deborah McLeod’s now infamous solicitation for a “cruel and offensive” offer from collector Thompson Dean for a 1964 Roy Lichtenstein work as amusing, though he wishes it hadn’t been in writing. You’ll find the entire deposition at the end of this post.

Mr. Gagosian’s lawyers have argued that their client’s fiscal records need not be revealed, except if he loses at trial and a jury finds that he must pay punitive damages. Mr. Baum argues that he is already entitled to such discovery rights, given the overwhelming case made in the testimony.

His main argument centers around the fact that, in his testimony and in documents related to the case, Mr. Gagosian and his cohorts regularly represent both buyer and seller in art selling deals, without telling either party that this is the case.

Mr. Gagosian’s newly released deposition features a number of colorful exchanges, to say the least. On the subject of the “cruel and offensive” offer (“Q” represents Mr. Baum, “A” represents Mr. Gagosian):

Q: Have you ever used that phrase?
A: No.
Q: Why not?
A: It’s not the way I talk.
Q: Do you find it to be indiscreet?
A: I find it amusing, to be honest with you. Not that somebody in that situation is, amuses me, but I just thought it was kind of a funny way to put it.
Q: Do you think it was amusing that Charles Cowles was in desperate financial straits?
A: I just made that distinction. I don’t find— I found the language because it was so hyperbolic, kind of excessive to the point of being amusing.

Mr. Gagosian goes on to concede it was “strange language to use in connection with an art transaction” and “kind of cruel.” And he even chastised Ms. McLeod for using that kind of language, though his main problem seems to be that it was in writing.

Q: Have you ever indicated to her that you were displeased that she used that language?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: When did you do that?
A: After I saw it.
Q: And what did you say to her?
A: I said you gotta, you know, things in e-mails can get out in the world, one way or another, not necessarily through legal proceedings, but you know, you don’t want to see that in print because it must be a little bit embarrassing for you, and she was quite embarrassing [sic].

“The deposition testimony and documents tell a disturbing story of gross misconduct,” Mr. Baum told The Observer. “Substantial punitive damages are warranted.” The entire Gagosian deposition is available below.

The deposition:

Larry Gagosian Thought the ‘Cruel and Offensive’ E-mail Was ‘Cruel,’ but Also ‘Amusing’