The Samis Land Co. has evicted Kurt Lidtke Gallery from its Pioneer Square storefront at 408 Occidental Ave. S. Lidtke had leased the space since May 2001 but was behind in paying...

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The Samis Land Co. has evicted Kurt Lidtke Gallery from its Pioneer Square storefront at 408 Occidental Ave. S. Lidtke had leased the space since May 2001 but was behind in paying rent.

“I don’t want to elaborate on how far in arrears he is, but it’s a lot,” said Jennie Shortall, a property manager for Samis Land Co.

When a King County sheriff’s deputy arrived to carry out the eviction Dec. 10, Lidtke was not at the gallery. Normally in a commercial eviction, personal property is left outside the building, the landlord said in a prepared statement. But in this case, “in good conscience, Samis Land Company could not leave the numerous pieces of art on the sidewalk where persons other than the true owner would surely take them.”

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Samis has placed all artworks left at the gallery in one of its offices. Shortall said there were 12 to 15 paintings hanging on the gallery walls and several dozen other works in a storage area upstairs.

Samis has little hope of collecting the back rent. “My understanding is we are allowed to take up to the value of two months rent in property that was left behind,” Shortall said. “But the only property we have is artwork and we want to get that back to the proper owners.”

Those who believe they may own any of the confiscated artwork can contact Shortall at 206-621-8324. None of the artwork is being released at this point, as the company grapples with how to deal with the problem.

“I’ve been in property management for a long time and have never seen anything like this,” Shortall said.

The gallery is empty except for Lidtke’s desk. The phone was still in service yesterday.

Lidtke could not be reached for comment.

The gallery has been closed since September, when The Seattle Times first reported on a spate of lawsuits against Lidtke. Clients around the country have sued Lidtke for failing to pay for or return valuable works of art consigned to the gallery.

One suit by a Texas art collector claims $245,000 in damages for 13 missing Mark Tobey paintings.

Most complaints against Lidtke have come from clients who consigned paintings for sale at the gallery.

But people who bought work from Lidtke may end up with problems, too. Attorneys for some of the collectors suing Lidtke said they hope to recover works Lidtke sold but never paid for.

The attorneys say some buyers could be held liable if they knew Lidtke wasn’t paying sellers or knew they paid a “distressed” price.

Sheila Farr: sfarr@seattletimes.com