Arnold Klein is in dispute with David La Chapelle, a photographer who portrayed Michael as Christ, over ownership of that image. The piece in question was part of a collection called ‘American Jesus’ that La Chapelle showed in galleries around the world after Michael’s death. It is a Pieta, the traditional religious art scene of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, with Michael in place of Christ. The work has been valued at $48,000.
Klein is under scrutiny with the police for his treatment of Michael, and has declared bankruptcy. The artwork was damaged in a fire at Klein’s home and he returned it to the artist for repair. La Chappelle refused to return it and said the piece wasn’t a gift at all, but compensation for dermatological services that Klein had failed to provide.
The police are not interested in pursuing the dispute.