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DV Pilot police & fire

Missing pieces returned to artist after Westwood gallery owner prompts PILOT story

Photo Credit: r., by Chris Dei
Photo Credit: r., by Chris Dei

EXCLUSIVE: Less than 24 hours after CLIFFVIEW PILOT ran a story about a Westwood gallery owner’s bid to reunite a former Bergen County artist with works sold without her knowledge, she found the saleswoman waiting outside her studio this morning — with 30 of her pieces. “I think the story scared the [crap] out of her,” the artist known as Sica said this afternoon.

Sica, Michael Fitzsimmons (PHOTO, r., by Chris Dei)

“Everyone saw your story,” Sica told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon. “It was the real thumbscrew.”

Westwood Gallery owner Michael Fitzsimmons was just as grateful to get the good news.

Although broker Diane Ducharme still hasn’t repaid him a court-ordered $2,000 related to Sica’s work, that was the last thing on his mind early this afternoon.

“What matters is that the artist got her artwork back. I’m just glad about that,” Fitzsimmons told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “There are some really nice pieces in there. Sica and I are already talking about getting them into my gallery.”

Fitzsimmons, a former Westwood Chamber of Commerce president, said he turned to CLIFFVIEW PILOT after a local media outlet ignored his request for a story about Sica’s missing works ( SEE: Westwood art gallery owner helps former Leonia artist get her due )

He had his own trouble with Ducharme, having paid a consignment deposit for $100,000 worth of abstract paintings and sculpture of Sica’s that was never returned. He later went to court, but not before calling the artist and returning all of her works.

In an interview this week with CLIFFVIEW PILOT , Sica said she had no clue that her work was being sold from under her nose. The story got thicker when he discovered more works of hers in a Hawthorne furniture store.

“As an artist, you have to trust who you are working with, so this was a surprise,” Sica told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “I wasn’t aware that [Ducharme] was selling my work and keeping the money.

“I had no idea my work was even at his gallery until Michael called and told me.”

A judge in Hackensack ordered Ducharme to repay Fitzsimmons his $2,000 three years ago. But he says he’s been unable to find Ducharme, who reportedly owns a company called Art-Ex-Press, which has no web presence.

A woman who answered a listed cellphone earlier this week said it was the wrong number for Ducharme, a Harvard University graduate who appears on a local access cable-TV entertainment program, “The Cognac Show”:

Two weeks ago, Sica – who now operates studios out of Chelsea and Montauk gave Fitzsimmons the original invoices for the works he found at Home Furniture Store and More in Hawthorne. A series of emails followed between him and storeowner Rich Sutton.

“I’m concerned about my artist,” Fitzsimmons said earlier this week. “When someone through naiveté or just plain trust gets taken advantage of, the right thing should be done.”

“It’s a situation that artists are exposed to,” Sica said. “You don’t know if your art is sold or not unless the salesperson tells you. The only other way you would know is if you see your work somewhere or if someone else sees it.”

Sica now has a consignment agreement with Sutton, who reached out to her after a call from CLIFFVIEW PILOT on Wednesday.

“She’s quite content to use me as a showplace for her art, and I’m happy to give her whatever we make on the sales,” Sutton said. “It’s a good relationship.”

Sica was represented for a time by Englewood gallery owner Jeanne Richards. Ducharme stayed with her after Richards’ gallery closed in 2008, agreeing to sell her work, Sica told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“I told her this morning, ‘If you sell my work, you’re supposed to pay me.’ Then she started crying,” the artist said this afternoon. “She’s done that to me many times before. Each time I tried to discuss what happened, she either started crying or changed the subject.”

Sica said Ducharme also was upset about the CLIFFVIEW PILOT story.

“I think she was afraid she’d get in trouble. After all, she could have called me yesterday or last night or even early this morning to make arrangements. But instead she brought all of it to the gallery.

“She was waiting when I got there.”

Sica, who has a gallery on W. 19th Street in Manhattan ( SEE: ), said she had no intention of taking Ducharme to court — and still doesn’t. What happened to her work is part of the risk of being an artist, she said.

Still, she couldn’t help but wonder whether other works of hers were out there somewhere.

This morning, she got her answer.

Sica’s “Woman’s Right to Shoes”

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