A grand jury indicted the gay owner of a high-profile Atlanta art gallery, more than two years after police raided his business amid allegations that artists aren't being paid for work sold there.
Bill Lowe is expected to surrender to police this week after being indicted on Friday, according to WSB. The media outlet first reported Lowe's indictment on criminal theft and racketeering charges on Tuesday.
Lowe allegedly withheld more than $300,000 in proceeds from the sale of artwork at his gallery. In 2013, Atlanta police raided his then 13,000-square-foot facility in Buckhead as artists from around the country complained of Lowe failing to pay them. At the time, Lowe called the allegations “inaccurate.”
A New York artist celebrated Lowe's indictment. Via WSB:
“I think it is great. I think it is about time. It seemed like everybody in Atlanta knew he was doing stuff like this and no one was doing anything about it,” said Donald Sultan, a New York-based artist who says Lowe owes him tens of thousands of dollars.
Lowe's attorney, Bruce Harvey, said the indictment is an attempt by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office to play “collection agency.” Via WSB:
“Bill has been part of the art scene, he has an international reputation in the art community. He vigorously denies any criminal liability, and he will fight it in court,” said Bruce Harvey, Lowe’s attorney. “I hope it will be failed attempt at use the Fulton County District Attorney’s office as a collection agency.”
Some critics said that Lowe used proceeds from the sale of artwork to pay old debts. Via Arts ATL:
Some observers speculate that Lowe is using recent proceeds to make partial payments on old debts. Others suspect that they have been used to keep up lavish appearances. Lowe’s former house at 262 The Prado went into foreclosure in 2011. In 2009, the 4,443-square-foot home had an assessed value of $1.4 million; it was auctioned off for $1 million.
Lowe moved from his expansive Peachtree Street facility – the gallery's home since 2008 – to a more modest building on Miami Circle in 2014.
Before the criminal case – and since the raid in 2013 – Lowe has continued to host LGBT fundraisers for groups, including the Big Wigs of the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus, the gay jocks of Action Cycling and YouthPride. In 2012, Project Q Atlanta readers voted it Bestest Art Gallery.