It’s an art world whodunit. Scottish painter Peter Doig, whose works sell for millions, will soon have to prove in court that he didn’t paint a highly styled Western landscape. It’s basically the opposite of innocent until proven guilty. But then again some $5 million is on the line.
The painting in question is owned by Robert Fletcher, a former corrections officer from Canada, who claims he knows Doig from his time in prison on an LSD charge. He says during that time Doig sold him the painting for $100. The painting is signed “Pete Doige 76.”
But Doig denies that the painting, which could be worth as much as $5 million, is by him or that he was ever near the correction facility. Doig is now facing a lawsuit, according to the New York Times.
The case is highly unusual according to legal experts, because while the authenticity of a work of art is often contentious, the artist is usually dead. To have a living artist deny that the work is theirs and to have the artist sued is basically a first of its kind case.
Sotheby’s specialist who looked at the work said it was “rare to see such a complete and highly resolved early painting by Doig” but that it had Doig’s “trademark eeriness of the empty landscape.”
Doig’s lawyers even claim to have identified the real painter, a man named Peter Edward Doige who died in 2012. His sister has stated that he served time in the same prison and painted.
Still, experts will be coming out on both sides and a decision is far from certain. If Doig was to loss the case it could put numerous artists in the cross hairs.
“This has become about much more than Peter’s painting,” Gordon VeneKlasen, Doig’s dealer at Michael Werner Gallery in New York, told the Times. “It’s about authorship. It’s about being forced to put your name on another artist’s work.”