The famed glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose works are currently on view at the New York Botanical Garden, is the subject of a lawsuit brought by a former contractor. The plaintiff, Michael Moi, is alleging that he worked for years as an uncredited assistant and claims that he is due co-authorship of many works. The Chihuly estate counters that Moi was in fact a "handyman" for the studio initially hired to do roof repairs.
Mr. Chihuly, whose health is failing at age 75, has never hidden the fact that he works with assistants. Given the scale of many of the works produced in his 34,000 sq. foot, the fact that others would assist seems unsurprising. Moreover, Chihuly has not hidden the fact that he has worked with assistants for decades (in fact, generations have glass artisans have essentially apprenticed at his studio).
Further complicating the dispute is the fact that Moi, prior to filing his lawsuit, reportedly demanded USD $21 million and threatened to reveal the artist's struggles with bipolar disorder if not paid. The issue of Mr. Chihuly's mental health is re-capitulated in the current lawsuit in a strikingly ad hominem swipe:
"For years Leslie Chihuly and Chihuly Studio have undertaken efforts to hide Dale’s struggles with mental health and his inability to work on a daily basis, not to protect him, but to ensure that the cash cow known as ‘Chihuly’ continued to moo.”
Photo by Kyle Johnson for The New York Times