Celebrity photographer facing law suit over $24 million renovation of chic Manhattan properties

A legal row has broken out over the renovations of two historic properties in New York owned by international celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.

A company that lent the photographer $24 million to renovate the 19th century red brick, vine covered buildings has filed a law suit claiming she is in breach of contract.

Art Capital claims that the loan was backed by the negatives and intellectual property rights to every photograph Leibovitz has ever taken, and by property she owns.

A law suit filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan seeks to sell her assets to repay the loan that is due on September 8. If successful the photographer, who is famous for her nude picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and a portrait of a pregnant, naked Demi Moore, could lose all her properties.

Leibovitz bought the properties in the popular Greenwich Village area of Manhattan in 2002 and started extensive work with the aim of turning them into a single 9,000 square foot living and working space.

The work dragged on for four years and Leibovitz was heavily critcised by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and faced a $15 million lawsuit from a neighbour after cellar excavations done without a work permit undermined a shared wall and a chimney collapsed. She ended up buying that building too.

But the cost of the work escalated beyond her means. She was in a 'dire financial state' due to unpaid taxes, mortgages and unpaid bills when she approached Art Capital Group, which lends money using art as collateral, according to the lawsuit.

Leibovitz backed the loan with rights to her photographs, the Manhattan properties and a house in Rhinebeck, a leafy enclave about two hours north of New York, according to the documents.

Now Art Capital is suing the photographer for breaching a contract that allows the company to sell the properties and photographs' copyrights even before she is due to repay the loan on September 8, according to court papers.

During the renovations the photographer was also criticised by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation which said that it complained about the deterioration of the three structures which were left exposed to the snow and rain.

A spokesman for the photographer said that she is working to try to resolve the situation.