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Kevin Costner in legal dispute with artist over sculptures

March 20, 2012 | 11:45 am

Actor Kevin Costner stands with bronze sculptures of bison and American Indians at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood, S.D.
Kevin Costner's latest epic journey isn't taking place on a movie screen near you, but in a courtroom. The actor-director is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with an artist over a series of sculptures, and the case has reached the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Costner is battling Peggy Detmers, an artist who was commissioned by the Hollywood star to create 17 bronze sculptures depicting buffalo and Native Americans. The sculptures were originally intended to be displayed at Costner's planned South Dakota resort called the Dunbar, named after his character in the Oscar-winning 1990 movie "Dances With Wolves."

Plans for the resort eventually fell through and the completed sculptures ended up on display at another Costner destination spot, Tatanka: Story of the Bison, an educational center in South Dakota about the history of bison in America. ("Tatanka" is the Lakota word for "bull buffalo.")

According to reports, Detmers claims that the sculptures were not placed in a mutually agreed upon location and that they therefore should be sold, with the artist entitled to 50% of the proceeds.

Lawyers for Costner are arguing that Detmers signaled her approval of the Tatanka location by participating in the construction process and other events.

On Monday, the South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments in the case. Costner wasn't present, according to a report, but his lawyers maintained that the actor did not breach his contract with the artist.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Detmers took nine years to complete the life-size sculptures, with each one weighing about a ton. In her 2000 contract with Costner, the actor promised to build the Dunbar resort by 2010 or place the sculptures in a mutually agreeable location elsewhere. Another option was to sell the work and divide the profit.

The Journal report states that Detmers agreed to create the sculptures at a discount rate and that Costner "promised to market copies of the works aggressively" in a gallery at the planned resort.

A lower court ruled in favor of Costner last year. The South Dakota Supreme Court is deciding whether to uphold that ruling.

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-- David Ng

Photo: Kevin Costner stands with bronze sculptures of bison and American Indians at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood, S.D. Credit: Associated Press

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