NY judge awards damages over ‘Nina’ caricaturist Hirschfeld’s works

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge has ordered a Manhattan gallery to pay $330,982 in damages to a foundation representing art by the late theater and screen caricaturist Al Hirschfeld for losing 19 of his works and selling reproductions of others without permission.

In a decision made public late on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer directed the payout by Margo Feiden Galleries nearly nine months after ruling that it had materially breached its 2000 licensing agreement with the Al Hirschfeld Foundation.

Among the missing works were depictions of the then-married Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh in the 1953 movie “Houdini,” and Denzel Washington, Paul Winfield and Ruby Dee in the 1988 Broadway play “Checkmates,” while the unauthorized copies depicted Carol Burnett, Bob Hope and other subjects.

The Hirschfeld Foundation had requested $1.55 million in damages, while Feiden said no damages should be awarded, court filings show. Damages hearings were held in May.

In a Thursday night order, Engelmayer said he could not enter a final judgment because some claims remained in dispute.

The judge said his “strongly held view” was that they be resolved because “all parties would benefit from bringing this matter to closure.”

Margo Feiden, who was also a defendant, in an interview said “the judgment from this court was not unexpected” and that the case was not over. A lawyer for the Hirschfeld Foundation had no immediate comment.

Hirschfeld had been known for hiding the name of his daughter Nina several times in his caricatures.

Finding the Ninas became a popular activity for readers of The New York Times, which often published his works.

Hirschfeld died at age 99 in 2003. His namesake foundation was set up the following year to promote interest in the theater and dramatic arts. It succeeded to Hirschfeld’s rights under the 2000 licensing agreement after his death.

The case is Al Hirschfeld Foundation v Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-04135.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler

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