US court hears Kevin Costner sculpture appeal

By Kristi Eaton
Vermillion, South Dakota (AP) March 2012

A lawyer for Kevin Costner told a court that the actor did not breach a contract with an artist when he placed commissioned sculptures of bison and American Indians at a different site than originally was agreed upon.

The Hollywood superstar paid Peggy Detmers $300,000 to make 17 bronze sculptures for a resort called The Dunbar he planned in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the state where Costner filmed much of his Academy Award-winning movie “Dances with Wolves.” The resort never was built and the sculptures are instead at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood.

Detmers said she spent more than six years creating the artwork and gave Costner a price break because she anticipated selling smaller sculptures at the resort.

Detmers claims that because The Dunbar was not built and the sculptures were not “agreeably displayed elsewhere,” as the contract stipulates, that the sculptures should be sold and she should be entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds.

But a circuit judge ruled last July that Detmers indicated her approval of the Tatanka location by participating in the site’s development and several events related to its opening. The Tatanka site houses the sculptures, a museum and a visitor center.

Kyle Wiese, one of two lawyers representing Costner at the hearing in the South Dakota Supreme Court, noted Detmers took part in the construction and mock up process and ground breaking ceremony at Tatanka in June 2003.

“All of this conduct – taking part in the dedication ceremony and giving a speech – indicated she was agreeable to put these sculptures at this location for the long term,” Wiese said. He added that Costner said he would not have put nearly $6 million of his own money into building the Tatanka site if Detmers had not been agreeable to the location.

The Tatanka site is located on 85 acres (34 hectares) of land next to 915 acres (370 hectares) of land where Costner had envisioned building The Dunbar.

Detmers’ lawyer, Andrew Damgaard, concedes Detmers agreed to the placement in 2003 at Tatanka. But he said she was under the impression The Dunbar still would be built.

“It’s very clear from the record that people were telling her the resort was intended to be built, that it was intended to be built on that property,” he said.

Costner did not attend the hearing. The state Supreme Court will issue a written decision at a later date.