A Canadian man claims he has an original painting by Peter Doig, whose works have sold for up to $26 million, per ArtNews. Doig says the painting isn't his. You'd think that would be the end the story, but no. In what the New York Times describes as "one of the stranger art authentication cases in recent history," Doig will have to prove he isn't the artist in a Chicago court next month. Owner Robert Fletcher says a Lakehead University student named "Pete Doige" painted the work in 1975 or 1976 while imprisoned on a drug charge at a Thunder Bay detention facility where Fletcher worked as a corrections officer, and Fletcher bought it for $100. Years later, he planned to sell it for millions. But when Doig was sent a photo of the piece, he denied it was his. In fact, Doig, 57, says he never set foot in Lakehead University or the detention center—and there's no record that he did.
"If I had painted that painting when I was 16, I would admit it," says Doig, who did spend time in Canada in his youth. He adds a man named Peter Doige, who died in 2012, attended Lakehead and the prison and a former art teacher there remembers watching him create the painting. Doige's sister notes the rocky desert scene resembles an area in Arizona that Doige once visited. However, a gallery owner in Chicago says the painting includes a horizontal striped landscape, water, logs, and white lichen on the trees, like other Doig works. A Sotheby's expert who saw a photo of the painting adds it has Doig's "trademark eeriness of the empty landscape." Fletcher is suing Doig for $5 million in damages. But "this has become about much more than Peter's painting," says Doig's art dealer. "It's about authorship. It's about being forced to put your name on another artist's work." (Read more art stories.)