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Artist Who Had to Prove He Didn't Paint Picture Awarded $2.5M

Gallery claimed Peter Doig painted picture signed by former inmate Peter Doige
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2016 11:00 AM CDT
Updated Jan 19, 2023 9:25 AM CST
Judge Sides With Artist Who Says He Didn't Paint Picture
This undated photo provided by Bartlow Gallery, Ltd. shows the painting, once valued at more than $10 million.   (Bartlow Gallery, Ltd. via AP)
UPDATE Jan 19, 2023 9:25 AM CST

Artist Peter Doig has been awarded a $2.5 million judgment by a federal judge in connection with a bizarre case that required him to prove a painting wasn't his work. In 2016, Doig was sued by a Chicago gallery after he disavowed a painting signed "P. Doige 1976." A former corrections officer who owns the painting claimed he had met Doig at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later at a prison in the city. Doig and lawyers presented evidence that while he hadn't spent time at either facility, Peter Edward Doige, who died in 2012, had been at both and created the painting while serving time for an LSD conviction. In his ruling against the gallery, the painting owner, and their lawyer, Judge Gary Feinerman said they kept pursuing the case after it should have been "absolutely clear" it was meritless, the New York Times reports. Doig's lawyer says he will donate the money to a nonprofit "that provides incarcerated people opportunities to create art."

Aug 24, 2016 11:00 AM CDT

A case Artnet.com calls "one wild ride" may finally be over after a federal judge ruled Tuesday that artist Peter Doig wasn't the painter of a painting owned by an ex-corrections officer—and that the man and his art dealer couldn't sue Doig for foiling plans to sell the painting for millions, the New York Times reports. "Peter Doig could not have been the author of this work," Judge Gary Feinerman said, refuting plaintiffs' claims that Doig was fibbing by denying the landscape painting owned by Robert Fletcher was his. What made the case uncommon: Doig, a living artist, was forced to deny he'd made a painting rather than prove he had.

Fletcher said he had seen Doig paint the piece in the mid-'70s while the artist was serving a short stint at the prison where Fletcher worked, and that Doig had later sold Fletcher the painting for $100. But Doig said he'd never been jailed and that the painting was by one Peter Edward Doige, whose sister provided evidence that seemed to indicate he was a closer match to being the artist behind the piece. The Times notes the plaintiffs used "somewhat unorthodox efforts" to make their case and compared Doig's other works—which often sell for tens of millions of dollars—to this particular painting, claiming Doig was lying because he didn't want to be publicly embarrassed at knocking off his own painting in later pieces.

But the judge ruled against the plaintiffs, who had sought almost $8 million in damages and a certificate of authenticity for the now "worthless" painting—which Forbes notes was valued at $10 million before Doig disputed its origins, saying any similarities were "purely coincidental." The Chicago Sun-Times notes "no one's happy" with the ruling, with Doig's attorney calling the case a "flagrant example of unethical conduct in the US courts," Fletcher still insisting the painting is a Doig, and Fletcher's art dealer notes, "No one should be allowed to lie." (Read more art stories.)

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