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North Van artist famous for Queen's coin portrait sues over missing, damaged sculptures

One sculpture was stolen and another was broken at North Shore exhibitions, the artist claims.

A North Shore artist famous for her portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II which appeared on Canadian coins for 20 years is suing a fellow artist she claims is responsible for one of her sculptures going missing and another being damaged at shows he organized.

North Vancouver's Susanna Blunt filed the lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court May 27 against Benjamin Lumb, claiming that during a 2022 exhibition he organized at his West Vancouver gallery space on Bellevue Street, he caused a plinth displaying one of Blunt’s sculptures to fall over “which led to a domino effect, knocking over and shattering numerous of Ms. Blunt’s sculptures.”

Blunt alleged during that exhibit that Lumb also “drilled a hole into one of Ms. Blunt’s sculptures.”

During another exhibit organized by Lumb, a sculpture was stolen while on display, according to the lawsuit.

In that case, Lumb “failed to make reasonable attempts to recover the stolen sculpture, including by failing to report the theft to the police” Blunt claims.

She has also alleged Lumb promised to repay her for the value of the sculpture, “but to date has failed to do so.”

Blunt is best known publicly for her profile of the long-reigning Queen Elizabeth II, drawn without her crown, which was chosen to be the likeness of the monarch used on Canadian coins, starting in 2003.

But Blunt has had a long career as an artist and has studied and taught art in places ranging from Marin County, Calif., to the University of British Columbia, and exhibited in both group and solo shows around the world.

As a young art student, she once worked for Yoko Ono and studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art in London, England, which chose one of her sculptures as part of its summer exhibition in 2016.

Blunt has also been known for her portraiture.

During the mid-1990s, she returned to art school to study sculpture at Capilano University under sculptor George Rammell and has produced work featuring a variety of found objects.

Contacted by the North Shore News, Lumb said he was taken off guard by Blunt’s lawsuit.

Lumb said it’s true that one of Blunt’s sculptures did go missing from an exhibition at the Profile co-working space in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale in 2021. At the time, the working space "changed ownership,” he said, and before he was made aware of that, a small sculpture called Storm went missing.

“Probably someone lifted it,” he said. “It’s probably just sitting in somebody’s home right now.”

Lumb said he felt bad about that, but “there was never any talk about compensation for the piece.”

Lumb said after that, he offered Blunt a solo show at his gallery space in West Vancouver and that show was mounted in 2022.

Lumb said during set-up for the show “we were both installing one of her pieces on a shelf” when they dropped it, damaging the sculpture and a case containing another piece.

“She was part and parcel of that incident,” he said.

Lumb said the show went ahead successfully. “I sold two of her works,” he said, adding Blunt never discussed the incidents with him afterwards.

“It’s never been discussed,” he said. “I feel badly that she’s feeling the way she feels.”

Lumb, who has since moved his gallery to downtown Vancouver, said he’s put on 30 art shows, including for artists like Douglas Coupland, and has never had any other problems. “It’s super unusual,” he said.

Lumb said he tried to call Blunt twice, but she hasn’t responded.

Previously, Blunt had spoken to the News about her desire to see the missing sculpture recovered.

Contacted June 24, Blunt said she considered the lawsuit against Lumb a private matter which she didn't want to discuss.

"It should be decided in court," she said.

In 2017 Blunt was recognized as one of two artists of distinction chosen by the Fund for the Arts on the North Shore. The annual award celebrates local artists who have national or international stature. Recipients over the past two decades have included Douglas Coupland, Bryan Adams, Anna Wyman, Nicola Cavendish and Marcus Mosely.