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LAWSUIT OVER POSSIBLE BASQUIAT, HARING, WARHOL FAKES

Feb. 6, 2012

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“Caveat Emptor” should be your slogan when it comes to buying artworks by contemporary artists on the “secondary market,” or so a recent legal filing reminds us. New York collector Joseph Goldsmith is suing dealers Robert Durant and Lee Charlton Scott for selling him $950,000 worth of artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, which he now believes are fakes. The case was first reported by Adam Klasfeld in Courthouse News.

According to the complaint filed with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Goldsmith purchased the 13 works between 2005 and 2007 through Charlton Roberts Fine Art in Milford, Conn., and Charlton Rose Fine Art on 47th Street in Manhattan. Neither gallery is currently in business, but Charlton Rose owner Lee Scott has since opened Lee Scott Fine Art.

Goldsmith says in the court papers that the dealers assured him of the works’ authenticity and told him they had relationships with the sellers and “personal connections” with the artists. But when he had some of the works evaluated by Basquiat’s and Haring’s estates in 2010, he was told that they were forgeries.

Scott said that he believed the works were authentic and gave Goldsmith a good price because they didn’t have the proper certificates of authenticity. “I told him that with the paperwork that’s there he shouldn’t buy them, but he wanted them,” Scott said. The documentation the galleries did provide includes notarized letters from friends and collaborators of the artists. Graffiti artist Angel Ortiz wrote one vouching for the authenticity of a Haring work (though Ortiz has been known to make a Haring copy himself on occasion, according to art-world insiders).

Scott added that Goldsmith never purchased any works from his company, Charlton Rose, and that he only acted as a salesman for the other gallery, Charlton Roberts, and earned maybe $30,000 total in commissions from its owner, Robert Durant.

“He’s trying to get me sucked into this because I’m credible and honest,” Scott said.

In the complaint, Scott was said to have promised Goldsmith a refund last June, but has yet to make good on the agreement. Now, Goldsmith accuses the two defendants of having “entered into an agreement with each other to knowingly defraud” him and is suing them for civil conspiracy, in addition to charges of breach of contract, fraudulent inducement, unjust enrichment and breach of warranty/title.

Goldsmith, whose attorney did not return a request for comment, is seeking a full refund, plus interest and attorney fees.

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