Judge sides with Costner in sculpture dispute

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) July 2011

A judge sided with Kevin Costner in a breach-of-contract lawsuit against him over a public display of bronze sculptures commissioned by the actor for a resort that hasn’t been built in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

State Judge Randall Macy ruled this week that Costner met the terms of a contract with local artist Peggy Detmers when he instead placed the “Lakota Bison Jump” bronze collection at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood.

Macy wrote that Detmers’ participation in the development of the Tatanka site and the placement of the 17 sculptures there indicated she approved of the site, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Detmers declined to comment to the Journal.

Costner attorney Jim Nelson said the actor was “well satisfied with the decision.”

Costner commissioned Detmers to create the 125-percent-life-scale sculptures of 14 bison and three American Indian hunters on horseback as the centerpiece for his proposed Dunbar resort, which hasn’t materialized after 20 years.

A contract required Costner to publicly display the sculptures by 2010 if the resort was not built. If Costner and Detmers could not agree on a site, Costner would sell the sculptures and split the proceeds with Detmers.

Detmers said she had little input in the Tatanka decision and sued Coster to force a sale. In February trial testimony, she estimated the art work’s retail value at $4 million.

Costner spent $6 million to develop the Tatanka site that includes the sculptures and a visitors’ center.

Macy said Costner would not have invested in a permanent home for the sculptures without Detmers’ agreement, knowing the only alternatives were to sell or find an agreeable location.

“The court cannot endorse such an absurd result,” Macy wrote.

Costner announced plans to build The Dunbar shortly after the 1990 release of his Academy-Award-winning movie “Dances With Wolves,” much of which was filmed in South Dakota. The resort was named for his movie character, Lt. John J. Dunbar.