by Lisa Sorg
Joe Rowand, who owes artists thousands of dollars after declaring bankruptcy last year, is opening his new gallery, tomorrow in Chapel Hill.
Over the past several years, Roward pulled down a $15,000 monthly salary while his previous enterprise, Somerhill Gallery, owed artists at least $270,000 in commissions on works that had been sold but for which they were never paid.
And in some cases, the artists said, they were told by the gallery that their pieces had not sold when in fact, they had.
Last year Somerhill declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed; its debts included $200,000 in back rent and another $200,000 to the estate of the late philanthropist Rolf Rosenthal.
Most of the Somerhill artists are still waiting to be paid. An auction held in September 2010 generated $91,560 according to court documents, but the proceeds went first to major creditors, including banks and Scientific Properties, the gallery’s landlord.
But what Rowand is doing—starting a new business—is legal, according to Sara Conti, an attorney who had sought damages on behalf of the artists. As long as Rowand doesn’t use the Somerhill name or sell works that were protected in the bankruptcy filing, he can launch a new gallery.
The Indy called Rowand today and asked if any proceeds from the new business could go toward paying debts to Somerhill artists. He said it he was on a ladder installing light bulbs. Asked if he could speak later by phone, he said he did not want to comment.
The Joe Rowand Art Gallery hosts its grand opening tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located at 1713 Legion Road, down the street from Crooks Atrium Café.
Read the Indy's previous coverage of the Somerhill case:
"Somerhill Gallery declares Chapter 7 bankruptcy; owes artists thousands"