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Tatanka

FILE PHOTO: Tatanka owner Kevin Costner was on hand in May 2005 to commemorate the opening of the attraction that displays the 125% lifesize bronze buffalo. Recent precipitation in the Deadwood area has left his "Tatanka: Story of the Bison" display precariously perched. (Steve McEnroe/Journal staff)

Kevin Costner did not breach a contract with local artist Peggy Detmers when he placed the "Lakota Bison Jump" bronze collection he commissioned at his Tatanka attraction near Deadwood, according to Circuit Judge Randall Macy.

In a decision filed this week, Macy said that Costner met the terms of the contract. Furthermore, Detmers' participation in the development of the site and the placement of the 17 sculptures at the site indicated that she approved of the site, the judge said in his written opinion.

"Her significant involvement in the Tatanka project and her failure to tell Costner or anyone else that she did not agree with placement at Tatanka indicate she was agreeable to the sculptures' placement at Tatanka for the long term," Macy wrote.

"This was absolutely the right decision," Costner attorney Jim Nelson said Thursday. "The facts show she agreed to a permanent location of the sculptures at the Tatanka location."

Nelson said Costner was "well satisfied with the decision."

Detmers declined to comment for this story, saying she preferred to consult with her attorneys.

Macy also rejected a request by Detmers' attorneys, Russ Janklow and Andrew Damgaad, for financial damages and the transfer of the copyright on all reproduction of the art to Detmers.

Detmers sued Costner for breach of contract in 2009, claiming the actor had failed to comply with the terms of their contract.

The sculptor said that when Costner commissioned the artwork in the early 1990s, she cut him a deal on the cost in anticipation of having a market for her art in his proposed resort, The Dunbar.

Costner invested more than $20 million trying to develop a destination exhibit anchored by a five-star resort, but the project never materialized.

A few years later, when The Dunbar had not been built, Detmers and Costner renegotiated the contract. Detmers received an additional $60,000, bringing her total commission to $310,000. Costner also granted her royalty rights on reproductions.

The agreement also stipulated that if The Dunbar was not built in the next 10 years, the sculptures would be sold if "not agreeably displayed" and any profit, after Costner's costs, divided equally.

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Detmers and Costner both started looking for alternate locations after the signing of the May 2005 agreement.

Detmers testified during the February court trial that the statues were left sitting in a field at the foundry until being moved to the Tatanka site. She also said it took her about seven years to create the 125-percent-scale sculptures of 14 bison and three Native American hunters on horseback.

Costner eventually selected the Tatanka site and spent $6 million developing the site. Detmers assisted with the placement of the statues at the site and spoke at the grand opening.

Macy said it is absurd to conclude that Costner would have invested the money to create a permanent home for the artwork without Detmers' agreement knowing that the only other alternatives were to sell the art or find an agreeable location.

"The court cannot endorse such an absurd result," Macy said in his decision.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com

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