Frank Bowling’s Texas Louise 1971, included in “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” at Tate Modern, London in 2017.

Painter Frank Bowling has severed ties with Hales, his gallery of nearly a decade, and is suing them to retrieve $2.4 million he contends is currently owed him. Additionally, he is asking for the return of some 110 paintings he says the gallery is holding hostage. The works’ total worth is estimated at $18.5 million.

Hales, which has spaces in New York and in London, has filed a countersuit claiming that Bowling’s family members are trying to wreck the 86-year-old artist’s relationship with the gallery.

The British Guyana–born Bowling, who has seen a resurgence of interest in his work of late, with major exhibitions at London’s Tate Britain and at Haus der Kunst in Munich, cut ties with Hales in October 2019, citing “serious breaches” of the gallery’s agreement with him. He filed his suit in London’s High Court earlier this month.

“The feeling that they had taken advantage of me is reinforced by the extraordinary demands they are now making for vast sums of money, while holding to ransom my own paintings,” Bowling said in a statement. “I’ve been a practicing artist for more than sixty years, and while I am grateful to all those who have supported me in my journey to recognition, my art works and personal toil speak for my success.”

Hales’s countersuit alleges that the artist’s sons, Ben and Sacha, are attempting to wrest control of the artist’s legacy and in doing so are attempting to destroy the gallery’s working relationship with Bowling and his wife, artist Rachel Scott.

Bowling, a semi-abstract artist known for his muted palette and personal themes, is the author of the watershed 1971 text “It’s Not Enough to Say ‘Black Is Beautiful,’” in which he calls out the double standards faced by Black artists of the time.

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