Alec Baldwin sues art gallery for allegedly selling him a fraudulent painting

Ross Bleckner’s “Sea and Mirror” and Alec Baldwin (photo credit: Artnet and Georges Biard via Wikipedia)

Alec Baldwin filed a lawsuit today against the Fifth Avenue art gallery, the Mary Boone Gallery and its owner Mary Boone for allegedly selling him a “copy” of a work of art by the acclaimed American artist, Ross Bleckner.

According to the lawsuit, Baldwin asked Boone if he could buy Bleckner’s painting “Sea and Mirror” after he attended a show of Bleckner’s works at the Mary Boone Gallery in 2006. A copy of “Sea and Mirror” was printed on the invitation, and Baldwin allegedly loved the work so much that he carried that invitation around in his briefcase “alongside certain mementos and photographs.”

After years of loving the painting, Baldwin asked Mary Boone in 2010 if she could obtain “Sea and Mirror” for him while he was in the process of buying another painting by Bleckner from her. Boone said she would look into whether the painting could be bought, and later emailed Baldwin that she had spoken with the collector, and that “they are not motivated sellers,” and so would want $175,000 for the painting, though they bought it for $121,000. Baldwin agreed to buy the painting for that price, and also paid Boone a $15,000 fee, shelling out a total of $190,000.

Boone delivered a painting to Baldwin soon after, which had been printed with the stamp “Mary Boone Gallery Inventory Number 7449” (the same inventory number as the original “Sea and Mirror” painting). According to Baldwin’s lawsuit, the actor noticed that the painting she delivered “appeared brighter and smelled different than he would have expected,” but Boone explained that away by “falsely telling him” that she had had the painting cleaned because the former owner was a “heavy smoker.”

Baldwin says he believed Boone and hung the work in his office. In May 2016, he attended a party at another gallery in New York, when several art experts told him that it was “highly uncommon” for gallerists to clean works of art before delivering them, especially without notifying the purchaser first.

Baldwin then reached out to Bleckner to ask if he knew who had owned the painting before him. Bleckner did not know, but forwarded the email to Boone, whom Baldwin says he asked repeatedly for an answer without a direct response. During this time, Baldwin had an expert from Sotheby’s take a look at the painting, and their conclusion was that the work Baldwin had was not the original “Sea and Mirror.”

Baldwin’s suit says that “Ms. Boone obtained and provided Mr. Baldwin with a counterfeit painting, that she had intentionally made to appear identical to “Sea and Mirror” for the purpose of fooling Mr. Baldwin into believing it was the genuine work he had bargained for.” The suit claims that Boone admitted to Baldwin that she had never purchased “Sea and Mirror” during a phone call, and instead gave him a “copy” of the painting.

Boone’s lawyer, Ted Poretz, disagrees with Baldwin’s version of events, and told LLNYC in a statement that “Mr. Baldwin’s effort to intimidate Ms. Boone does not change the fact that his claims are false. Ms. Boone has no interest in misleading clients and we are confident that this frivolous and vindictive lawsuit will be dismissed.”

Poretz insists that “regardless of Mr. Baldwin’s unseemly reaction to his own misunderstanding,” Boone offered Baldwin a full refund and “took every step to handle this in a professional manner. Sadly, Mr. Baldwin’s decision to continue this personal attack is not surprising given his history of lashing out against anyone he believes is beneath him.”

In his lawsuit, Baldwin says he asked Boone for the original work, but that Boone did not deliver it and has not delivered it since then. Though Baldwin does not specify an amount that he is seeking in damages and says the exact amount will be determined at trial, the lawsuit does note that he wants “exemplary damages to, among other things, deter Defendants from continuing its fraudulent practices.”

Baldwin did not reply to request for comment.