Artist Stuart Semple in row with assistants who say they weren’t paid

 

The leading British artist Stuart Semple, who has collaborated with Lady Gaga and whose works sell for £100,000, is facing legal action from a series of former gallery and studio assistants who claim that they have not been paid for their work.

Bailiffs have sought to seize and auction off works produced by Semple, who counts Sienna Miller and Debbie Harry among his buyers, to pay arrears which the former employees say they are owed.

Semple, described as the “Basquiat of the Noughties” after a $1 million-grossing sale of his billboard-size paintings in 2007 elevated him to “art superstar” status, has been served with court orders instructing him to pay the debts. The artist, 33, an ambassador for Mind, the mental health charity, admits he suffered cash-flow problems after the 2008 recession.

But Semple, from Poole, Dorset, denies a pattern of hiring young assistants seeking to break into the London art world, then failing to pay their wages in full.

Semple, who created a Lady Gaga feature and cover for West East Magazine, disputes the figures owed and has offered a repayment plan to at least one of the claimants.

However the dispute has turned nasty, with Semple threatening legal action against a blog written by Annie Ridout, a former assistant who claims she is owed £1,260 following her work for him at the Aubin Gallery in East London in 2012, and has won a judgment against Semple in the small claims court.

Ms Ridout said: “I was then in constant contact with the bailiff. She decided to find an exhibition he was part of and put a claim on his artwork which would be auctioned off to pay his debts.”

After obtaining figures for the artist’s annual turnover, she has rejected Semple’s offer to be paid in £20 a-month instalments and has now sent a statutory demand for payment.

The Independent understands that Chiara Scotto, former director of sales for the Aubin Gallery, claims that she is owed £5,000 in unpaid wages, expenses and commissions for contacts. Anthony Williams, a technician in the Aubin Gallery, states that he is owed £2,500 and also employed bailiffs to recover the debt after going to the small claims court. Alana Lake, who was assistant manager at the Aubin Gallery, has made a claim for more than £4,000.

They have asked Mind to reconsider Semple’s ambassadorial role.

Semple, whose exhibition Suspend Disbelief grossed £1 million, posted a reply on Ms Ridout’s blog. He wrote: “I did a massive show, sold really well and got a good response but the gallery read the contract differently to me and decided they wouldn’t pay me.” He said he offered a plan to pay Ms Ridout in full but she “turned those applications down.”

Regarding the outstanding claims, Louise Anscomb, Semple’s manager, said: “We do not believe it is appropriate to comment on individual allegations which are part of an ongoing legal dispute.”

Ms Anscomb said Semple, who once suffered a near-fatal allergic reaction, prompting his work for Mind, had health issues. He found the demands from the former employees “frightening”, she said.

Sarah Maple, an artist, who is waiting for “a significant amount” of unpaid commission, says she believes Semple suffered when he was not paid for a Hong Kong show which had a “knock-on effect with all his other projects”. Maple said:  “I think someone who has the intention to screw someone over is a fraudster and I do not believe he intended this at all. I do believe I will be paid eventually,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative - Unskilled & Skilled

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen to jo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee