Artists sue auction houses over royalties law

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Famed New York painter Chuck Close and other artists are suing Sotheby's, Christie's and eBay, contending the auctioneers willfully violated a California law requiring royalty payments on sales of their works.

The three federal suits filed Tuesday seek class-action status to represent many other artists and demand unspecified royalties and damages — which could total hundreds of thousands of dollars given current art prices.

The suits were filed on behalf of Close — best known for his enormous photorealistic paintings — along with Los Angeles artist Laddie John Dill, and the estate of late sculptor Robert Graham. Graham's works include the ceremonial gate for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that was commissioned for the 1984 Olympics and features nude statues modeled on some of the athletes.

A foundation of late California painter Sam Francis also is named as a plaintiff in the suits against Christie's and eBay Inc.

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