5-30-04

A Gauguin in Kitsap?

What might be an original work by the famous 19th- century artist is the focus of a legal battle.

Derek Sheppard and Angela D. Smith, Sun Staff

Famed 19th century artist Paul Gauguin would likely never believe anyone would fight over a work that might possibly be his.

Nor that the drama, complete with greed and legal battles, would unfold in Kitsap County between an artist and a restaurant owner.

The French post-impressionist died destitute and lonely in 1904 in French Polynesia. His paintings, created in Tahiti a decade before he died, were unenthusiastically received by his Paris peers. When he tried to auction them in 1895, only 27 of 74 sold.

A century later, his Tahitian works are some of the most celebrated of modern art.

Peter Teekamp, an artist now living in North Bend, studied Gauguin for 40 years. With the help of Michelle Moshay, he is writing a book about Gauguin. He has seen the primitive, mysterious forms and rich colors of Gauguin's canvas.

For Teekamp, a coincident isn't coincidental.

Life is full of mystery, humor and series of incidents. A series of incidents create a coincident, he says.

Six months ago, a series of incidents led him into the now-closed Chamorro's restaurant on Fourth Street in Bremerton. His interest piqued by a mural outside, Teekamp went in for a cup of coffee.

As the lanky artist sat and sipped coffee, he looked around. There on a wall hung a 24-inch by 34-inch charcoal sketch of two women on a beach.

There began the drama.

The sketch

"Maybe this is a fantastic plan lined up," Teekamp later said.

As a student, author and, he claims, a reincarnation of Gauguin, he knew what he saw.

At worst, it was a reproduction of Gauguin's work.

At best, it was an original sketch possibly worth millions and a valuable addition to the art world.

Then, restaurant owner Melvin Sablan and a sketch told a story that put the drawing closer to at best.

The sketch apparently took a long journey.

During World War II, the Chamorro -- the native people of Guam -- were run out of their country by Japanese troops. They, including Sablan's great-grandmother, retreated into caves.

She rolled up the sketch, a gift, during the ordeal. After the war, she tucked it away in her attic for 33 years.

In 1978, she gave it to her daughter, Sablan's mother, who kept it in her attic for nearly 25 years until Sablan gained possession of it.

He brought it to America in 1999, and, unwitting of its possible identity, hung it in his Bremerton restaurant.

The legal battle

Seven days later, after Sablan researched it on the Internet and was shown books about Gauguin by Teekamp, the artist bought the sketch for $5,000.

He and Sablan hand-wrote a deal that stipulated Teekamp would keep it, and, if he found it was worth anything, would split the proceeds 50/50 with Sablan, minus the $5,000 and Teekamp's expenses.

Moshay took pictures of the two looking at a book, smiling in front of the sketch and shaking hands.

Soon after, the legal battle began and the friendship dissolved.

Sablan and his lawyers filed a lawsuit contending Teekamp coerced him into signing the deal and that the agreement was for Teekamp to borrow it and help him sell it.

The sketch went into court custody. Though a judge twice ordered that Sablan pay a $5,000 bond for the piece, he failed to do so.

Eventually, Teekamp and Moshay were granted temporary custody of the art.

They filed to have the case dropped to avoid appeals and for $50,000 in compensatory damages because of lost work and delayed publication of their book.

Weeks before a judge was to decide the sketch's fate, Teekamp sat in a chair in his North Bend studio, surrounded by his paintings, and said, philosophically, that ownership doesn't matter to him.

"When you dig in your garden, do you own the flowers?" he asked.

But in the U.S. legal system, ownership does matter.

Moshay said legal ownership is needed to authenticate the sketch.

She and Teekam have been thorough in their dealings, taking pictures, documenting meetings, recording conversations and making transcripts.

"I think we've got a pretty strong case," she said.

But on Friday, a judge dismissed the case without prejudice, a twist that allows Sablan and his lawyers to file a lawsuit should they choose to do so.

Ali Nakkour, who represented Sablan, told the judge that they likely would. He refused to comment to The Sun, and referred questions to Sablan's other attorney. He did not return a call Friday evening.

Teekamp admitted the legal battle, despite its hardships, is a great ending to his first book, or a beginning to his next.

"It's a wonderful story with a bittersweet ending," he said.

"Although we're very hurt, Peter will still honor what he wrote down," Moshay said Friday.

Meanwhile, the painting's authenticity remains unknown.

"Right now, I don't want to know what it is," Teekamp said.

____________________________________________________________________________________

6-29-2004

A Gauguin in Kitsap?

What might be an original work by the famous 19th- century artist is the focus of a legal battle.

Derek Sheppard and Angela D. Smith, Sun Staff

Famed 19th century artist Paul Gauguin would likely never believe anyone would fight over a work that might possibly be his.

Nor that the drama, complete with greed and legal battles, would unfold in Kitsap County between an artist and a restaurant owner.

The French post-impressionist died destitute and lonely in 1904 in French Polynesia. His paintings, created in Tahiti a decade before he died, were unenthusiastically received by his Paris peers. When he tried to auction them in 1895, only 27 of 74 sold.

A century later, his Tahitian works are some of the most celebrated of modern art.

Peter Teekamp, an artist now living in North Bend, studied Gauguin for 40 years. With the help of Michelle Moshay, he is writing a book about Gauguin. He has seen the primitive, mysterious forms and rich colors of Gauguin's canvas.

For Teekamp, a coincident isn't coincidental.

Life is full of mystery, humor and series of incidents. A series of incidents create a coincident, he says.

Six months ago, a series of incidents led him into the now-closed Chamorro's restaurant on Fourth Street in Bremerton. His interest piqued by a mural outside, Teekamp went in for a cup of coffee.

As the lanky artist sat and sipped coffee, he looked around. There on a wall hung a 24-inch by 34-inch charcoal sketch of two women on a beach.

There began the drama.

The sketch

"Maybe this is a fantastic plan lined up," Teekamp later said.

As a student, author and, he claims, a reincarnation of Gauguin, he knew what he saw.

At worst, it was a reproduction of Gauguin's work.

At best, it was an original sketch possibly worth millions and a valuable addition to the art world.

Then, restaurant owner Melvin Sablan and a sketch told a story that put the drawing closer to at best.

The sketch apparently took a long journey.

During World War II, the Chamorro -- the native people of Guam -- were run out of their country by Japanese troops. They, including Sablan's great-grandmother, retreated into caves.

She rolled up the sketch, a gift, during the ordeal. After the war, she tucked it away in her attic for 33 years.

In 1978, she gave it to her daughter, Sablan's mother, who kept it in her attic for nearly 25 years until Sablan gained possession of it.

He brought it to America in 1999, and, unwitting of its possible identity, hung it in his Bremerton restaurant.

 

The legal battle

Seven days later, after Sablan researched it on the Internet and was shown books about Gauguin by Teekamp, the artist bought the sketch for $5,000.

He and Sablan hand-wrote a deal that stipulated Teekamp would keep it, and, if he found it was worth anything, would split the proceeds 50/50 with Sablan, minus the $5,000 and Teekamp's expenses.

Moshay took pictures of the two looking at a book, smiling in front of the sketch and shaking hands.

Soon after, the legal battle began and the friendship dissolved.

Sablan and his lawyers filed a lawsuit contending Teekamp coerced him into signing the deal and that the agreement was for Teekamp to borrow it and help him sell it.

The sketch went into court custody. Though a judge twice ordered that Sablan pay a $5,000 bond for the piece, he failed to do so.

Eventually, Teekamp and Moshay were granted temporary custody of the art.

They filed to have the case dropped to avoid appeals and for $50,000 in compensatory damages because of lost work and delayed publication of their book.

Weeks before a judge was to decide the sketch's fate, Teekamp sat in a chair in his North Bend studio, surrounded by his paintings, and said, philosophically, that ownership doesn't matter to him.

"When you dig in your garden, do you own the flowers?" he asked.

But in the U.S. legal system, ownership does matter.

Moshay said legal ownership is needed to authenticate the sketch.

She and Teekam have been thorough in their dealings, taking pictures, documenting meetings, recording conversations and making transcripts.

"I think we've got a pretty strong case," she said.

But on Friday, a judge dismissed the case without prejudice, a twist that allows Sablan and his lawyers to file a lawsuit should they choose to do so.

Ali Nakkour, who represented Sablan, told the judge that they likely would. He refused to comment to The Sun, and referred questions to Sablan's other attorney. He did not return a call Friday evening.

Teekamp admitted the legal battle, despite its hardships, is a great ending to his first book, or a beginning to his next.

"It's a wonderful story with a bittersweet ending," he said.

"Although we're very hurt, Peter will still honor what he wrote down," Moshay said Friday.

Meanwhile, the painting's authenticity remains unknown.

"Right now, I don't want to know what it is," Teekamp said.

 

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