Court Says Don't Rely on Fortune Cookie for Art Valuation

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Beware of "fortune cookies" for advice, even when it's not the kind you crack, read, and eat. Just ask Najung Seung, who claims that Mary Dinaburg, a partner at gallery Fortune Cookie Projects, duped her into buying a Julian Schnabel painting entitled Chinkzee for a price three times its market value. Initially, Seung paid Dinaburg $118,000 for a John Wesley painting entitled Bulls and Bed, only to discover that Dinaburg had sold the painting to someone else. Rather than returning the payment, Dinaburg offered Seung a $200,000 credit towards the purchase of Chinkzee at the "gallery" price of $380,000, and further represented the painting was worth at least $500,000. But Seung soon learned that Chinkzee had been sold months earlier at an auction for $156,000 based on an estimate price range of only $60,000 to $80,000, and that the market value was no more than $110,000. As a result, Seung filed suit against Fortune Cookie Projects, seeking the return of her money based on fraud, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, and unjust enrichment.

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