ST. PETERSBURG — A well-known local artist is being sued over damage to one of her own paintings, valued at $50,000.
Christine Herrmann, owner of Sweet Divas Chocolates, 400 Beach Drive NE, is suing Patricia Buckley Moss, known as the artist P. Buckley Moss and owner of the now-closed P. Buckley Moss Gallery, for negligence after termites infested a Moss painting owned by Herrmann. The painting was on display in the artist's gallery, according to the suit.
Herrmann consigned her 1985 original Moss watercolor, the Golden Couple, to the Finn Gallery of P. Buckley Moss, 190 Fourth Ave. NE, in December 2012. The consignment agreement posted the price of the art at $30,000.
In April 2013, Moss, who owned the building, evicted the Finn Gallery and changed the locks. Shortly after, Moss went to Sweet Divas Chocolates across the street to let Herrmann know that Finn was no longer associated with the gallery, according to the suit.
Moss also said Herrmann's painting was "grossly underpriced" by the Finn Gallery and told her it was at least worth $50,000 and that she would set up the painting in a special place in her gallery.
Later, Herrmann would periodically walk over to the gallery to inspect her painting. According to the suit, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
In June, the gallery's curator, Bonnie-Lou Binnig, told Herrmann the air-conditioning was not working for several days while she was on vacation. Two days later, Binnig had bad news for Herrmann.
Herrmann went to the gallery to discover bugs crawling between the glass and the canvas of the painting and noticed debris accumulated inside the bottom of the frame. A pest control company confirmed the bugs were dry-wood termites, which had eaten through the canvas, leaving visible pinholes, some in the focal points of the painting.
Herrmann made numerous demands for Moss to pay for the damaged painting, but Moss refused.
Moss, who sold the gallery in July, Herrmann and their respective lawyers declined to comment.
Todd Burchard, an owner of Burchard Galleries in St. Petersburg who does not personally know Moss or Herrmann, has been auctioneering antiques and fine art for 30 years. He said the damage is irreparable, and the watercolor might drop as much as 30 percent in value.
"If you're going to take on consignment and work for somebody, you should be responsible for that item," he said.
Colleen Wright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. You can follow @Colleen_Wright on Twitter..