A handyman who worked for Dale Chihuly sued the artist, alleging he’s due credit for work on Chihuly paintings.
In his lawsuit, Michael Moi accused Chihuly of withholding compensation for “myriad clandestine painting sessions.”
Chihuly Inc. fired back Friday, calling the claims “nothing more than an ugly and reprehensible display of opportunism and exploitation.”
Moi could not be reached for comment.
The famous Seattle artist said he hired Moi to clean and do small construction projects over the years. Now, according to Chihuly, Moi is seeking $21 million and said he’s in possession of Chihuly’s private documents, including medical papers and personal letters, and threatened to release medical information about the artist’s previously undisclosed struggle with bipolar disorder.
“Mr. Moi never worked with Dale as a painting assistant, and he did not participate in the creation of Dale’s art. Mr. Moi’s claims are not only baseless, they are a complete fabrication,” Chihuly Inc. said in a news release.
Chihuly, who is known worldwide for his glass art, uses studio assistants due in part due to physical necessity. In 1976, the artist was went through a windshield in a head-on car accident. His face was severely cut by glass and he was blinded in the left eye. Three years later, he dislocated his right shoulder in a bodysurfing accident.
Less well known is Chihuly’s struggle with mental illness. Chihuly, 75, and his wife Leslie, said they have begun to speak publicly for the first time about his bipolar disorder.
“This disease and, more recently, Dale’s advancing years, have made him more vulnerable to those who might take advantage of him,” Leslie Chihuly, president and CEO of Chihuly Inc., said in the release.
“While we hope that an open discussion of Dale’s diagnosis might comfort and inspire others who also grapple with mental illness, the Chihuly family also hopes to disarm those who might seek to exploit Dale’s illness and our family’s desire for privacy.”