Ingrid Homberg, the 59-year-old woman whom a police officer roughly ejected from Gagosian’s Anselm Kiefer show last year after she became entangled in a peaceful protest, has followed through with her threat to take the gallery to court, filing her suit on the cusp of what may be the global blue-chip operation’s most high-profile weekend of the year, reports ARTINFO. The claim, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks as-yet-unspecified damages for a litany of alleged wrongs that includes “debasement, fright, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, psychological and emotional trauma, [and] physical and mental injury.” Homberg is also suing the city of New York.
The incident behind the lawsuit occurred on December 18, the last day of the Holocaust-referencing German artist’s show at Gagosian’s 24th Street space in Chelsea, when a police officer called to expel peaceful demonstrators from the group U.S. Boat to Gaza grabbed Homberg — a gallerygoer who had struck up a conversation with the young protesters — by the arm and dragged her, screaming, out of the gallery. She afterward went to a hospital emergency room to be treated for her injuries.
According to Homberg’s lawyer, Joel Berger, a career civil rights attorney who claims to have won millions of dollars from New York City for police abuse, the gallery and the police have “joint and several liability” for the harm to his client, because the Gagosian staffers who called the police should have told the responding officers that she was an innocent bystander. “In all my years of practicing law, I have never seen such brutality take place in such a supposedly civilized setting,” Berger said in a statement. Asked in a telephone interview with ARTINFO if he could point to a legal precedent in such a lawsuit, the lawyer responded, “To say that there’s legal precedent… of course, there isn’t any specific case, but it’s generally accepted as part of tort law that you have responsibility in cases like this.”