Getting MADI, Not Even

Yesterday, we posted an item about the federal lawsuit pitting artist Volf Roitman against Kilgore Law Center Investment Group over the fate of the MADI Museum. In summary: The law firm is selling its building on Carlisle Street, advertising it as "vacant land" suitable for "multifamily" development, which means Roitman's extravagent artwork would likely be destroyed along with the rest of the structure. Well, just as our item was going up, Roitman's attorney, Jonathan Winocour, discovered that on May 7 Kilgore sent out a press release announcing an "art and real estate face-off in Dallas courts."

In the release, Ted Anderson, co-owner of the building and managing partner of the Kilgore & Kilgore law firm, insisted that "the owners of the building have no intention of destroying any art work." He also says he "cannot believe" that the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, a federal statute created to protect works like Roitman's, should be used to prevent "anyone from selling real estate or developing the real estate they own." Roitman's seeking an injunction to prevent the destruction of the "whimsical and colorful facade" of the MADI Building, as the press release refers to the building's exterior.

Winocour says he wrote Anderson yesterday saying he's willing to drop the suit, which has a February trial date in U.S. District Court, Northern Division, if the firm will "enter into a contractual agreement memorializing the statement from the press release," and only if it transfers to future owners of the building. The way Winocour reads the release, sure, Kilgore promises not to destroy the artwork, but it says nothing about the responsiblity of future owners, who would likely bulldoze the 1970s structure and build condos on the land.

"This is posturing," Winocour says. "I don't think Anderson is being genuine, becase obviously the intent is to sell the building. It's the land underneath the building that's significant, and there is no way to avoid destroying the artwork if they destroy the building. We could save the judge's time if they agreed to our proposal, but that's not going to happen."

The press release also includes another interesting note. It refers to the building's co-owners, Bill Masterson and his wife, Dorothy, as "long-time supporters and financial patrons of Volf Roitman," whom they met more than a decade ago and hired to redo the bland old building. Yet, the release says, "the relationship between Roitman and the Mastersons soured a year ago," and offers no further details. This litigation is likely doing wonders to rekindle that old flame. --Robert Wilonsky

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