In the aftermath of a much-publicized ruckus that occurred at Gagosian Gallery on Dec. 18, a lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The suit names as defendants Gagosian Gallery, the City of New York, NYPD officer Salvatore P. Saetta, gallery staff and a handful of “John Does.”
The case is the outcome of an incident that occurred on the closing day of Anselm Kiefer’s show, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” A group of protesters entered the gallery and silently stood about the space for some time wearing T-shirts that had the title of the show written in Arabic, Hebrew and English. The idea was to engage visitors in a dialogue about issues surrounding Kiefer’s work. They declined to leave when approached by the gallery staff, who then called the police. A number of hysterical accounts can be found on the Internet.
According to a complaint filed on behalf of Ingrid Homberg, a German-born U.S. citizen, Officer Saetta, described as a “large, burly square-built officer,” forcibly removed the “59-year-old grandmother,” who is a “frail woman who suffers from fibromyalgia (a chronic illness characterized by muscle pain and fatigue), degenerative joint disease, scoliosis, arthritis and other ailments.” As recounted in the court filing, Saetta grabbed her by the flesh of her inner arm, causing her to fall, and then dragged her to the door.
The complaint, which demands a trial by jury, asserts that Homberg was not one of the protesters and that gallery staff did nothing to inform the police of that, though bystanders did.
Homberg’s attorney, Joel Berger, hasn’t yet heard from Gagosian’s representation but says that if the gallery is “interested in settling rather than engaging in a messy public court battle, this could be over in a matter of weeks.”
He adds, “There cannot be much in the way of factual disputes since there are several witnesses who were present in the gallery at the time of the incident.”