- Kinsey Gidick
- A few loyal readers made sure to leave some copies of last week's City Paper outside of Rebekah Jacob Gallery
Following the publication of last week's cover story detailing a few of the messy business relationships between Charleston gallery owner Rebekah Jacob and several artists, the number of artists and former business associates who have worked with Jacob contacting the City Paper has continued to grow. For the most part, their allegations mirror those detailed in the article — lost work, lack of timely payment, or the lack of any payment at all. Fortunately for some of the artists involved, the once missing pieces have started to appear.
On the eve of the publication of "The Artful Dodger: How legal battles and dissatisfied artists drove a wedge between Rebekah Jacob and the arts community," a hearing was held in the courtroom of Judge Jennifer McCoy regarding works that had been left behind in Jacob's former gallery space at 54 Broad St. A month earlier, McCoy had handed down a distress warrant allowing property owners the Sadler Group to hold a public auction for property left behind in the space after Jacob was evicted, owing more than $49,000.
At the time, Judge McCoy stated that property belonging to any third parties was not up for sale, but that all depended on Jacob contacting the rightful owners of whatever was left behind and notifying the court. Jacob did not appear in court that day.
Following that July 24 court hearing, the City Paper contacted Justin Herrington of Born Again Heartwoods after hearing word that some of his company's handmade furniture pieces might be residing at 54 Broad St. Born Again Heartwoods had entered into a simple business agreement with Jacob — they would hand over a few pieces of furniture for display and use in the gallery and would pocket a portion of the profits from what Jacob was able to sell. When we first spoke with Herrington in early August, he was completely unaware that an estimated $30,000 worth of his company's missing furniture would be going up for auction later in the month. Herrington took quick action.
Contacting the court and hitting the books on property law, Herrington received a magistrate summons to appear before Judge McCoy on Aug. 22. This was his chance to reclaim the dozen or so pieces of missing furniture.
Appearing in the small courtroom on Morrison Drive, Herrington reached an amicable agreement with the Sadler Group and other involved parties to recover his property before the judge even took her seat. Following up with Herrington on Aug. 28, the City Paper was told that he had just received the last load of missing furniture.
Related The Artful Dodger: How legal battles and dissatisfied artists drove a wedge between Rebekah Jacob and the arts community
Joined by business partner Bill Long during the Aug. 22 hearing and armed with a folder of legal papers, Herrington had taken a stand by representing himself in court that day. Judge McCoy ultimately approved the decision to allow all interested parties to reclaim their property from 54 Broad St. She reminded all those in attendance that Jacob bore the responsibility of notifying artists that they should reclaim their work before the pending auction. McCoy said that Jacob had not contacted the court or even appeared in her courtroom.
Although Jacob remained absent during the Aug. 22 hearing, a few new faces had entered the picture.
Photographer Ben Nixon of Asheville, N.C., appeared in court with his attorney, in search of around 40 pieces that he says had been in Jacob's possession. Following the mutual agreement in the Charleston courtroom, Nixon says he was able to recover 21 pieces from Jacob's former Broad Street gallery. Nixon adds that 14 of his works were later recovered from Jacob's current gallery space on John Street, but claims that five pieces remain missing.
- City Paper file photo
- Justin Herrington of Born Again Heartwoods was able to recover furniture from Rebekah Jacob's gallery over the past few weeks
New York City-based photography Claire Nitze was also represented in court Aug. 22. Her attorney stated that one of four of Nitze's works had been identified at the former Broad Street gallery, and a second was later discovered. An email exchange shows that Jacob messaged Nitze on Aug. 12 to say that Jacob had asked her assistant to contact Nitze to arrange the return of her work, stating that it was just not translating into the local market.
"The Southern contemporary market is dead and I am heavy in Latin American art and photography. I leave to travel this week," Jacob wrote to Nitze on Aug. 12.
When Jacob spoke with the City Paper on Aug. 14, she said she had removed most of the work from the former gallery space and keeps much of her inventory in off-site storage units in Charleston and other cities.
New York-based photographer Shane Lavalette's legal victory over Jacob was also heavily featured in the City Paper's recent cover story. Lavalette was awarded a judgement of $11,638 against Jacob in June, just over $3,000 of which stemmed from his claim over the alleged sale of two photos.
Following the publication of the City Paper's story on Jacob, which featured one of Lavalette's missing photos, the photographer was contacted by a reader regarding the purchase of one of the missing works in question — "Spit in the Swamp."
P.J. Roberson, who was identified in a January 2015 article in Charleston Style and Design as a communications associate with Jacob's gallery who was "instrumental in securing RJG's success in social media," emailed Lavalette, claiming that her father had purchased "Spit in the Swamp" from Jacob in 2015. According to Roberson's father, Sandy, the work is currently hanging in their mountain house in North Carolina.
- Sandy Roberson provided this photo allegedly showing Shane Lavalette's missing work "Spit in the Swamp," which Roberson says he purchased from Rebekah Jacob in 2015
When questioned about the artworks that Lavalette declared missing, Jacob denied ever having possession of the pieces, telling the City Paper that "I have a whole different inventory record. He's wrong."
Meanwhile, Lavalette says he is simply happy to know that one of the missing works is being enjoyed in someone's home.
And as if by fate, another legal case against Jacob was settled on the same date that the City Paper's cover story hit stands. Filed on Aug. 23, a Charleston judge issued an order, seemingly bringing to a close the case between Jacob and Georgia-based oil painter Edward Rice.
According to a complaint filed on May 11, Rice entered into a contract with Jacob in 2014. In November of that year, Rice says he was notified that a collection of nine paintings had been sold, with the retail price set at $22,500.
The court complaint states that Rice did not receive his $11,250 cut of the sales within the 30 days agreed upon by his contract and he "made a few inquiries into payment, however those inquiries were ignored."
In May 2015, Rice alleges that two more works sold for a combined value of $7,550, but again he received no payments within 30 days. Rice would go on to terminate his contract with Jacob in April 2016 and all his remaining artwork was returned, according to court documents, but the remaining $15,025 Rice said he was owed from his half of the sold art work had yet to materialize.
Patrick Chisum, the attorney who represented Rice and Lavalette in their cases against Jacob, says the judge's order of default came after Jacob failed to answer allegations in the summons and complaint filed against her. According to Chisum, this means that all the allegations in the complaint are deemed true and a damages hearing is soon to follow to determine what amount should be awarded.
Regarding the case between Jacob and Lavalette, as well as the public auction for the works inside the gallery owner's former Broad Street location, Jacob said she was unaware of the legal proceedings until the cases were resolved. In the case of the public auction, Jacob claimed to have been out of town and had failed to receive the proper notification until she returned to her John Street location. Jacob cited a similar reason for her lack of awareness in the case with Lavalette.
"Logistically, again, I wasn't here to be in court or I didn't know to be in court. It wasn't that I was being lax, but in South Carolina, there are some things you can do by publication without being served papers. A lot of lawyers use that leverage, which it is what it is," Jacob said on Aug. 14.
A quick records search shows that Jacob never responded to the claims made against her by Rice, but it wasn't for lack of knowing. A signed affidavit of service shows that Jacob was made aware of the charges levelled against her on May 16.
"At approximately 2:40 p.m., I entered the gallery on 49 John St. upon which a male and female were sitting at a desk. I asked the female if she was Rebekah Jacob and she responded affirmatively," reads a court affidavit from the individual tasked with serving Jacob her legal notice. "I then told her I had an envelope for her, which I then handed to her. Rebekah Jacob accepted the envelope and at that time I exited the gallery. Upon exiting the gallery, I informed her she had been served."