State seizes consignment store, leaving artist unable to retrieve paintings

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DENVER — A Denver artist who trusted his artwork, or livelihood for that matter, to a retail shop to sell it on his behalf has found himself battling a lose-lose scenario. The state has swooped in and taken possession of the goods and everything else inside the business.

According to self-proclaimed “mazezologist,” Warren Stokes, there’s not much he can do to get his work back. A sign posted on the door of the closed Colorado Furniture Direct shows the Colorado Department of Revenue seized the property earlier this month. The notice cites the business owner owes thousands of dollars in taxes.

In May, Stokes said he signed a consignment deal with the store’s owner.  According to Stokes, if the store sold one of his pieces, it gets 10 percent of the cut. But that agreement was not enough to stop the CDOR from seizing 12 of Stokes’ pieces along with everything else inside the property.  The pieces, according to Stokes, are worth around $10,000.

According to CDOR, the owner owes close to $14,000 in taxes, and now legally owns the property and everything used by the business. Next month, the state will sell everything off in an auction. Money made in the auction will go to pay off the business owner’s debt to the state.

“Selling it is how I make a living. So again to have someone who didn’t handle their responsibilities, basically benefit from my work, and I get nothing out of that, is very frustrating,” Stokes said.

He said he feels like his hands are tied and has only one option to get his work back. Stokes says he contacted CDOR but was told the art belong to the state and gave him one option to get it back.

“Buy your art back if you want it,” Stokes said.

He said he can’t stomach buying back his own art work. Local tax attorney Brian Huebsch said artists or any property owner for that matter should use caution when entering into a consignment or lease agreement.

“Do your research to know if you are dealing with a reputable business,” Huebsch said.

He said some work before signing on the dotted line can go a long way.

“Get legal help in advance to make sure that you’ve got the contract in place,” Huebsch said.

According to CDOR, before the state seizes any property, the business owner is notified and is given plenty of time to inform employees and other interested parties.

Theoretically, Stokes should and could have been given notice to remove his artwork before seizure of the property.  Stokes said by the time he found out, it was too late.

FOX31 reached out to the owner of Colorado Furniture Direct for comment but  has not heard back.

The auction is scheduled for Oct. 8. Stokes said he doesn’t know what he will do but will probably never trust anyone else with his art ever again.

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