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In a decision that should bring some relief to art experts, the German art historian and the former director of the Centre Pompidou, Werner Spies, no longer has to pay a fee for mistakenly authenticating a painting as a genuine work by Max Ernst. On 3 December, the Versailles Court of Appeal overturned a 2013 ruling against Spies that ordered him to reimburse the collector Louis Reijtenbagh for a work that turned out to be a fake produced by the forger Wolfgang Beltracchi.

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Manhattan’s federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Elizabeth Bilinski and 19 other collectors against the Keith Haring Foundation over its refusal to authenticate 111 works.

According to the court papers, Bilinski submitted works she owned by Haring, which she and the other plaintiffs had acquired from Angelo Moreno, a friend of the artist, to the foundation in 2007. But the foundation, without giving a reason, rejected the pieces as “not authentic.” When Bilinski submitted what she considered more evidence of authenticity, including a statement from Moreno, the foundation refused to reconsider its decision. The collectors said that a forensic report indicated that the art could have been created during Haring’s lifetime, and that experts at Sotheby’s believed the works to be authentic, but the auction house refused to sell them without the foundation’s approval.

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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against The New Yorker and one of its writers by Peter Paul Biro, a forensic art expert. Biro was the subject of a 16,000-word article about art authentication and the process of matching fingerprints on paintings to the artists who created them. Biro claimed that the article, which was published in The New Yorker in July 2010, left readers with a negative impression of him and his work.

Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed the case saying that the writer, David Grann, did not act “recklessly” or vilify Biro. The ruling, which was released on Thursday, August 1, 2013, applied to Gawker Media, Business Insider, two additional websites and a biography of Jackson Pollock published by Yale University that mentioned Grann’s New Yorker article.

Biro’s lawyer, Richard Altman, said that they plan to appeal the court’s ruling.

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Wednesday, 03 July 2013 13:59

Andy Warhol Foundation Ends Lengthy Legal Battle

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts has ended a six-year clash with its insurer Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company, recovering almost $6.6 million in legal fees. The battle between the foundation and its insurer began over authentication issues and snowballed to include the repayment of related legal fees.

The dispute began in 2007 when art collector Joe Simon-Whelan sued the foundation’s authentication branch for alleged fraud and conspiracy relating to the purchase of his 1965 Andy Warhol self-portrait, which he paid approximately $200,000 for in 1989 and was later deemed inauthentic. Another collector, Susan Shaer, filed a similar suit again the foundation in 2010 bringing the legal fees doled out to nearly $7 million.

According to a statement released by the foundation, “both suits alleged an absurd scheme to manipulate the prices for Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) artwork yet [they] were forced to dismiss their claims in late 2010…The Foundation’s insurers nevertheless refused to reimburse the Foundation for its legal costs incurred in defending these bogus suits, alleging that the Foundation’s insurance policies did not cover claims of this nature.” The funds have since been repaid by Philadelphia Indemnity and transferred to the foundation’s endowment.

The Andy Warhol Foundation was established in 1987 following the artist’s sudden death. The organization’s mission is to support the creation, presentation and documentation of contemporary visual art.

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Marc Chagall’s (1887-1985) Le Nu au Bouquet, which was stolen in 2002 from a yacht moored in Italy, has been recovered in a private collector’s home. The robbery occurred while the boat, which came from the United States, was being repaired in northern Italy’s port of Savona. The thieves replaced the painting with a forgery.

Following the death of the yacht owner, his heir traveled to Italy to recover the boat and its contents, ultimately discovering that the Chagall painting had been replaced by a fake. The heir alerted the Italian police, but news about the painting didn’t surface until 2012 during an investigation into Bologna’s stolen art trade. Investigators were able to trace Le Nu au Bouquet to an art collector from Turin who had purchased the work, which came with an official authentication, in 2003.

Italy’s art theft division is currently investigating three suspects – two Romanians who were working on the yacht at the time of the theft and a gallery owner from Bologna. The Chagall painting is believed to be worth in excess of $1.3 million.

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