The Great Heights Art Heist: The Aftermath

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An attorney says he'll help artists
Developments continue in the case of H Gallery, the Heights art gallery we featured last week that is alleged to have been ripping off artists for the past several years.

Last Saturday, H director Heidi Powell-Prera showed up at the Heights' First Saturday Arts Market, a monthly outdoor gathering held across the street and down the block from H.

Mitch Cohen, director of the arts market, had read our story and forewarned many of the artists in the market not to do business with Powell-Prera, but the gallerist apparently did not know she was unwelcome on the premises.

She suddenly became aware of that state of affairs when a sculptor (who does not want to be named) suddenly got in her face and called her a crook. Cohen said he intervened, as he was alarmed at the level of anger, both that of the sculptor (who is not a subject in our article but who also claims to have been taken by H Gallery) and Powell-Prera.

"I couldn't believe how irate she was," Cohen says. "She was acting like she was justified in being there." Cohen said he noticed that she had harvested a few artists' business cards before he asked her to leave.

He also said he had a sad moment earlier in the day. An artist friend of his who had not yet read our story was all smiles and telling all and sundry about the gallery show he had just contracted to put on at H Gallery. Cohen had to break it to him that H was, um, somewhat embattled, and the poor artist was worried that he had not only almost been taken, but had somehow incurred the wrath of his fellow artists who thought he had chosen the side of H Gallery over them. (Cohen told him that was not the case.)

Meanwhile, H Gallery appears to be facing legal battles in both civil and criminal court.

At least one of the artists in our article and the Better Business Bureau have approached the Houston Police Department and/or the Harris County District Attorney's office about launching a criminal investigation of the gallery. A case could and might soon be made that gallery principals Heidi Powell-Prera and Sandra Bernstein are not merely incompetent businesswomen, but criminal fraudsters.

Things are moving towards civil litigation as well. Last week we wrote that the ripped-off artists had been advised by a lawyer to each file individual small-claims suits against the gallery. The lawyer told them that while they likely wouldn't collect much if any money, they could at least have the satisfaction of knowing that the gallery owners were having to deal with process servers and other such bummers on a weekly basis.

Local attorney F. Richard Leach points out all those lawsuits would be expensive in the aggregate and would require time commitments from over a dozen artists. He thinks he has a better strategy, and it won't cost the allegedly afflicted artists a dime.

"An alternative is for the group of artists, as a group, file a single lawsuit in County Court," he writes via e-mail. "The group would have to be represented by an attorney. Court costs would be one filling fee, and one service fee per defendant. The lawyer would do what he does best and the artists would be free to do what they do best."

Leach says he would be willing to take the case pro bono, and pay all court costs.

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37 comments
WangChung
WangChung

after looking at the "H" site, I would say that the best thing to happen to the arts in the Heights would be to have that place close down and someone use the building to show something intersting instead of some high school grade fluff.

Joesa
Joesa

Glad y'all did an investigative story, but who cares about "H-Gallery" anyway? Sucky place and for the most part only shows crafty work that is void of substance.

concerned
concerned

Excellent reporting - keep the pressure on those skanks.

Hoteltango88
Hoteltango88

Hats off to John Lomax and the Press for some real Journalism in the age of the celebrity sound-bite garbage pumped out by Disney & Co. This is news that matters and can actually make a difference. Thank you for stepping up following through. I can only hope that this story will save a few area artists the pain & rage associated with form of theft by deception I also hope that the legitimate gallery owners here will stand up and support their partner/artists and any actions taken to stop this kind of behavior. There are some terrific galleries in this city who work hard at honestly presenting and marketing the artists they show and people like Heidi Powell-Prera are hurting them every bit as much as the artists they rip off. Any savvy gallery owner should see this as an opportunity to forge even better relationships with the Houston art community by stepping up and endorsing any actions against the operators of scams disguised as art galleries. The collaborative partnership between artists and galleries relies very much on trust by both parties in order to produce positive results for either, so please...let us hear from you in this matter. I can assure you that the working artists in this region will remember who the "good guys" are for a long time to come.

.......
.......

the "scultor" who soes not want to be named is jonathan lopez....good friend of....jim adams.....

Kristy
Kristy

Let's not get sidetracked. HGallery's representatives received money from artists in exchange for signed contracts promising to pay artists for their work when it sold. The gallery owners did not live up to their side of the agreement. All the personal crap being spewed in the comment section is nothing but a smokescreen. It is posted by the gallery owner in a lame attempt to deflect attention from their own criminal activity.

Sam
Sam

Allegedly, it is Jonatan Lopez who is the sculptor that does not wish to be identified and he called Heidi a "Slut" and stated she has syphilis, which explains her actions. Anyone wishing to see Johnatna’s alter ego can visit www.Entertainicle.com and click on Anita Latinlova’s art column to see just what kind of man he is. Love that representation Johnatan! Try Craig’s list, “men seeking men” for all your lovin needs. Better yet, get Mitch Cohen to promote you and your wants. He’s the guy who charged you to set up on the parking lot, (wonder if he pays taxes, fees to the city or gets permits) provided you have your own ratty tent and table. Don’t worry about the fact it’s a parking lot. Mitch claims it is the “only monthly fine arts event in Houston and they have the best art in Texas. Maybe the HP should do a follow up story about how he uses the artists for their own good. That is what he does, right? Don’t get me wrong, I think taking money from artists (up front) is a way to make a legal living, never mind their desires and dreams of making it big in the art world. Anyone renting a piece of parking lot will be right where they should be. Johnatan, do not be embarrassed about calling Heidi a “Slut” in public or even about being a trans-sexual, be embarrassed about what you call art and the people you are associate with and call home chicks.

Guest
Guest

See? This is what the Houston Press should be. It's great. You should really do more of this kind of stuff. Nice job, Lomax.

To the Editor in Chief: You guys used to real local journalism that actually informed (and sometimes even helped) people instead of all the tedious, self-absorbed-teeny-booper, MySpace-blog-style shit that represents 90% of your content now. Remember? Remember?

David B
David B

Time for those chicks to skip town in the middle of the night...

Dunstan32
Dunstan32

Comes around, goes around. Wheels of justice, approximated at least.

Mikabi
Mikabi

Yes if they're not stopped now, they'll move on to another town and do the same thing again. Grifters.

linda
linda

WOW, a pro bono lawyer? This is definitely the way go! Go get em'.....

antiM
antiM

thanks to JNL for investigating and keeping up with this story!

Anita Latinlova
Anita Latinlova

Ha ha, Wow, take a chill pill T.M.. and thanks for the publicity, www.entertainicle.com and me really appreciate it,

The new copy is out by the way, you can pick it up at the usual art venues and coffee shops around town

BH
BH

To T.M.

It's amazing how you've danced around the true subject of this discussion, and that is. that H Gallery has been ripping off artists. I think this is called displacement of blame, because you cannot intelligently refute what they have been accused of doing. It might also be described as using the "shotgun effect" because some of the shot is bound to hit something, whether it's related to the main subject or not. Why are you pulling other names into this discussion and denigrating them? Do you think that lessens the severity of the claims against HGallery? They are thieves plain and simple. Focus T.M. Focus.

texantiff
texantiff

"he uses the artists for their own good" oh this post is too much! I haven't laughed so hard in a while. That damn Mitch, helping artists for their own good - such a terrible thing to do! Bwa ha ha ha!

T. M.
T. M.

If this is the same David B who started SpaceTaker remember how you would give yourself a raise every time your received a grant. Let's run everyone out of town. How fun.

T.M.
T.M.

There has been no reporting here. The Houston Press would not know what to do with a real story. Smear tactics and smut is what they feed on.

I was at that so called arts market and what Jonatan Lopez did to that woman is a crime. He should go to jail or at least have the S*IT slapped out of him.

The person running that market should clean it up some, I mean children attend. I will never go back.

Mail
Mail

Sam- I did not post that- but this is david brown. Now quite sure what u r talking about. Would you care to expand on your statement.

THanks

True witness UFO seeker
True witness UFO seeker

I know exactly what happened at the market I am a witness and a survivor, it was about 5pm, all of a sudden the sky darkened, what seemed to be a strong ray of light shot down from the sky right on the sculptors booth, hit a metal sculpture and caused it to be rocketed sideways through one of the alleys of the market heading directly towards Heidi's direction, the sculptor ran after the sculpture and heroically grabbed it right before it hit her head, but once the sculptor realized that he saved that woman, he said, oh no, what have I done? I should have let it happened. Then right at that moment a huge spaceship appeared hovering above the arts market, it sucked Heidi up into it but her hair got caught in one of the turbines and the spaceship started malfunctioning, So the spaceship had to puke Heidi out and leave but before they left , they shouted through an alien megaphone, "Artist and gallerists alike, be kind to your selves, we read the article on the net and we came to investigate your social dealings and strange liaisons, you are a bad influence in the universe, make peace or earth will be destroyed." Heidi sat on the floor covered in green slime, she said she had an epiphany, she would move to Tibet to become a monk for the rest of her life and sell her car and house to pay the artists. It was a hell of an experience, I wonder why HP didn't mention the spaceship.

linda
linda

I've been at that market for over a year and I would never hesitate to bring a child there. The promoter works very hard to promote the artists that attend his market and it has been the launching pad for several artists. There is behind the scenes "crap" where ever you go. Such comments will only come back to hurt yourself.

antiM
antiM

sounds like you have a personal stake in this story, unlike the author.

it also seems like you like slapping a whole lot.

.......
.......

T.M. you are wrong , Jonatan Lopez did not throw insults to anyone, however, he should mind his own business

Scorpio
Scorpio

and you better have proof, your comment can be considered slander and a threat, careful what you type, I worked at the gallery for awhile and I will making a stand on the trial, they are crooks A collective court suit has been filled, an investigation is in process, you and your friends should think before you post, HP knows exactly who you are and could use your comments against you in the trial

Scorpio
Scorpio

you are so full of shit, I was there and Jonatan Lopez did not said one bad word, on the other hand, What Heidi was trying to do was unacceptable, trying to rip off more artists, and yes, The Market director did a good job at cleaning the market form dirty evil people you and the owners of H, you should move out of town, true evil people

LMAO
LMAO

This is so funny, I love Damien Hirst, and sculptor Jonatan Lopez is HOT to the bone

Concerned UFO
Concerned UFO

Please come to the DA's office and bring proof that we were at the arts market and that we sucked up some lady's freakishly long hair into our spaceship, and that we said that we would destroy the earth, your comments have sparked some curiosity, we vamn sue you for slander

True witness UFO seeker
True witness UFO seeker

you are very welcome, UFO's believe that humans should turn negativity into fun sometimes

BH
BH

Thanks for the humor. It's nice to be able to get a chuckle out of all the vileness that's been posted.

Tyjord7
Tyjord7

why do people bring children to art shows? there might be boobs or winkies showing,cause well....it's art!

antiM
antiM

Slap on Slap happy.

T.M.
T.M.

oh so now you changed sides Mr......., I will slap both of you personally

antiM
antiM

You are a fucking idiot.

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