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Archive for Thursday, December 9, 2004

Auction goof could land Wichita in court

December 9, 2004

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— A Wichita man is suing the city over a mistake that put donated pieces by an accomplished sculptor on the auction block.

Matthew Cuellar has been at odds with city officials since October, when the four parts of James Rosati's "Upright Form V" ended up for sale alongside surplus office equipment and dated Christmas decorations.

Cuellar won one of the pieces for $20 and bought a second piece from a winning bidder for $25. He cast the winning $233 bid for the other two pieces, but when he went to pay for them, auction workers realized they were dealing with more than scrap metal.

The workers wouldn't take his money and refused to turn over the remaining pieces of the sculpture.

Cuellar, 30, and a partner, Jason Rogers, are now suing, demanding that the last two pieces of the sculpture be turned over in return for his bid amount.

Cuellar's attorney, Kurt Harper, said his client simply wanted what he legitimately was owed.

"It's been clear from his comments from day one that he's willing to follow through on the deal that he understood was made at the time of the auction," Harper said. "That's all we're trying to do."

City Atty. Gary Rebenstorf said the city was reviewing the suit.

"Upright Form V" was donated to the city in the early 1990s. It formerly was near the Willowbend Golf Club but had been in storage.

It hasn't been appraised, but estimates have placed the 9-foot-tall sculpture's value in the thousands, perhaps as high as $30,000.

Rosati, who died in 1988, was known for large, metal sculptures that combined cubism with minimalism.

He was perhaps best known for "Ideogram," a 25-foot-tall piece at the World Trade Center. It was one of hundreds of pieces of art lost in the rubble of downtown Manhattan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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