A Brooklyn artist claims that celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson kept a piece of artwork he made of the two of them and is refusing to pay him $10,000 for the piece, new court papers allege.
Artist Michael Anthony Pegues, 59, filed suit against Samuelsson and his restaurant Red Rooster Harlem claiming he hasn’t seen the abstract Pop Art acrylic and glitter portrait since November 2018 nor has he been paid for it — despite telling the restaurateur the piece is worth $10,000 but was negotiable, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Wednesday.
Pegues told The Post that he and Samuelsson didn’t know each other. But Pegues recognized the famous chef when he was walking in New York City one day, Pegues said.
“I told him ‘I’m an artist and I’d like to take a photograph of you and make a painting’. He said, ‘Sure,’ ” Pegues claimed.
After creating the work, Pegues — whose art was featured in Macy’s windows nationwide during Black History Month this year, according to New12 — says he brought it into Red Rooster and showed it to Samuelsson.
“Wow, that’s great,” Pegues says Samuelsson told him.
Pegues told Samuelsson “this piece is negotiable,” before the chef told someone to put it in his office.
“He then took off and that was it,” Pegues claims.
The artist then went back to Red Rooster several times to ask Samuelsson about getting paid but he claims every time he was given the runaround with employees telling him Samuelsson wasn’t there.
Pegues said he either wants the piece back or he wants to be paid for it.
“How are you going to take something from me that you don’t own?” Pegues said. “It’s not yours. You ignored me and forgot about it and it didn’t mean anything to him.”
Pegues’ lawyer Pamela Roth told The Post, “It’s very unfair that people who are in power and successful feel that they can take advantage of up-and-coming artists or in this case Mr. Pegues [who] is a well-known artist in the art and fashion world.”
Carolyn Richmond, a lawyer for the restaurant and Samuelsson, said her client didn’t commission the work nor does he have the piece. And Richmond noted that Samuelsson has no memory of any encounter with Pegues.
“While Mr. Samuelsson has not seen the complaint yet, he has no recollection of the encounter in question, and furthermore is not in possession of any artwork made by Mr. Pegues,” Richmond said in a statement. “While Mr. Samuelsson has a notable commitment to and history of showcasing local art in his restaurants and supporting local artists both personally and professionally, the works of Mr. Pegues were not solicited nor commissioned.”
“While we do not invite litigation, we will vigorously defend Mr. Samuelsson and the restaurant as need be.”
In 2018, Samuelsson was sued by a former black employee who claimed he was discriminated against as the only black bartender at Red Rooster and was fired on false pretenses. Samuelsson’s lawyer said at the time that the suit was meritless. The case has since been settled.
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