I have put off writing this letter as long as I could in hopes that I would be able to find more buyers to go forward with the Hammurabi Monument project. To date I have managed to sell $90,000.00 worth of maquettes. I have broken the expenditures down in this way:
The money from the first three buyers, none of them Chaldean or from Detroit, was used to make the model (maquette) of the proposed monument. Funds from the sale of the rest went to build the actual monument. Please remember that from each $6,000.00, the $1,500 cost of casting and shipping each maquette must be deducted. That left some $50,000 to be used for the monument itself. I don't have exact figures because Janey Golani refuses to hand over the financial records of the sales of my sculptures.
My asking price was $150,000.00 for the entire project. When I was asked if this figure wasn't too high, I sent off photographs of the model to American foundries to see what they would charge for the job. The only response was a quote for $152,000.00 I have the paperwork still, though that price was only good for ninety days and this was two years ago.
You must keep in mind that this does not include the "Artist's Fee", which is the profit in our business, and should be at least twice the casting cost. There has never been any profit in these monuments, something people find difficult to believe because they judge people by their own standards and also because the figure seems just too high. There would be no way to do serious work of this caliber for our Heritage if one expected to be paid a fair price. All we are talking about is the bare cost of making such a monument.
At the recent Assyrian National Federation convention in San Jose Atour Golani, president of the Assyrian Federation and Jackie Bejan, president of the Assyrian Association of San Jose, stopped me from selling any personal sculpture or getting additional buyers for the Hammurabi Monument. I was also forced to leave the convention or face arrest by officers from the San Jose Police Department. The same Federation threatened me with arrest the year before in Chicago. It seems I have been too forthright and open in my criticism of their methods and lack of any tangible results.
As a result of the actions taken against me, by the Federation primarily and some affiliates starting at the previous convention in Chicago, I have not been able to make any sales of models of the Hammurabi and have been forced to place the plaster originals in storage. It took thirteen years to complete the Shumirum Monument, based upon the Assyrian queen who may have been the first woman in history to rule an empire. If I thought there was any real chance of completing the Hammurabi, I would not give up. But there is more to these things than just completing the work. The Shumirum Monument was accepted by the city of Chicago in 1996 and could have been installed at anytime since then if John Nimrod had not held us all hostage by threatening to involve the city in a lawsuit he said he would be bringing against me, and never has or will. We have enough people like him in Detroit and it was just as likely some incident would arise there to frustrate all my efforts. We are not ready yet apparently.
There is one other point regarding tax-deductible donations and the IRS. I told Atour and Janey from the very beginning that they should not promote these sales as tax-deductible donations. We had learned from our last ventures that the IRS does not allow people to deduct the full value of a "donation" to any non-profit organization, when they receive in return a "gift" valued at the same price as their donation. This is Tax Fraud plain and simple.
I asked that they tell people they were buying the models instead, and the money would be used to fund the monument. They refused, saying that the "tax angle" would attract people. If any of you have claimed a deduction for what amounted, technically and legally, to the purchase of a statue for personal use, you are in violation of the tax codes of this country. I even mentioned this to Martin Manna when he said he had found more buyers but would have to process them through Janey Golani's bank account with the Assyrian Federation. I refuse to go that route any longer. You should check with your accountants.
One other thing...the last three maquettes that were delivered are the subject of another action I will be bringing against Atour Golani and Ford Motor Company. Against my express and stated desire, Atour took the three models to Ford Motor Company where technicians welded them as he saw fit. He cannot even claim to have been the owner of the pieces. What he has done is not only grossly insulting and damaging to my reputation and opens one of us up to liability should those welds ever break...but is also illegal. I want those three sculptures back as they are not of my design, yet bear my name. I will ask among other things that Atour Golani be compelled to buy three correct ones, which I will deliver to the rightful owners myself this time.
I would like to apologize for the delay in getting the models to all of you who purchased them as quickly as I would have liked to. A project such as this, funded as it is entirely by individual sales, depends upon the cooperation of many and the compliance of the people who pledge their support. My primary objective was to complete the monument quickly and have it installed, especially as things in America seemed to me to require us to clearly define, and in public, who we are. In the last year, as I have been hindered by the Federation, Atour and Janey Golani, as well as Jackie Bejan from showing my sculptures and have not received any of the support I was promised repeatedly by them both and Martin Manna, I have been unable to pay for the most recent castings. I believe I owe two individuals their models of the Hammurabi, but as I can't get the records from Janey Golani, I don't know who they are. I will make it up as soon as I am able and will give them an additional sculpture at no cost.
No one is sorrier for all of this than I am. I had hoped to have the Shumirum installed long ago in Chicago but that city was prevented from doing so, and still is, by one man there, John Nimrod. I only stand to benefit if a city such as Chicago adds a sculpture of mine to its magnificent collection. I gain nothing from delays and indeed my costs only rise. I have spent three years and traveled and spoken and worked on the Hammurabi, putting $90,000.00 of my own money generated from sales of models, NOT donations, to see it too now blocked, and by Atour Golani, who in his capacity as president of the Assyrian Federation, the official and fiscal sponsor of the Hammurabi Monument, should have helped me raise the funds and not block me.
We will have to learn sooner or later that if we want to join the really cultured and civilized people of this nation, and not those merely buying their class and status, we will have to stop treating artists as if they are paid servants to whom we issue orders because we pay them. No one paid me anything, or asked me to make any monuments. It was my idea from the beginning, and the money was raised through the sale of models of the Hammurabi Monument, as was done with the Ashurbanipal Monument installed in 1988 in San Francisco and the Shumirum Monument, accepted in 1996 by the city of Chicago. All in all, from the sale of models of the three monuments, I have spent over $300,000.00 of my own.
I am more firmly convinced than ever that our young people in this country, as well as those of us trapped back home in a virtual war zone for the last 12 years, desperately need to tell our story to the people of the United States.
After this last convention in San Jose, an opportunity for me to raise more funds, where I was stopped by Atour Golani and Jackie Bejan, I have come to the conclusion that the Hammurabi Monument is dead. I can't justify spending any more time than the three years and thousands of dollars I have already spent. If people should want to buy the model as a sculpture it will sell at half price, as I have been forced by these same people to cut all my prices in half.
You will never know how sorry I am.
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