Christie’s hits back over disputed Basquiat

Auction house seeks dismissal of lawsuit



Christie’s has asked a New York court to dismiss a lawsuit against it seeking damages for its 1990 sale of a painting attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982, which the Authentication Committee of Basquiat’s estate allegedly rejected in 2006 as a fake.

The lawsuit was filed in September 2007 by Tony Shafrazi Gallery, which bought the painting from Christie’s in 1990, and Guido Orsi, to whom Mr Shafrazi sold it a year later (November 2007, p70).

In court filings, Christie’s says that Mr Shafrazi bought the work under a six-year warranty of authenticity only, and had exhibited the work at his gallery in a 1991 show with other works by Basquiat. “It is understandable that Shafrazi would be embarrassed to find that his judgment about the painting has been challenged by the Basquiat Committee—given that he holds himself out as an authority on Basquiat, has written essays about Basquiat, and has even published a book about Basquiat in which this very painting is illustrated. But it is outrageous for this sophisticated professional art dealer to try to shift the blame for this turn of events,” Christie’s said. Neither plaintiff has any legal claim against Christie’s at this late date, the auction house added.

Tony Shafrazi and Guido Orsi allege that authenticity issues had been raised before the Christie’s 1990 sale by Basquiat’s father Gerard Basquiat and John Cheim, director of the Robert Miller Gallery, which was exclusively representing Basquiat’s works at the time. They assert that Christie’s should have made a saleroom notice to the public that these authenticity issues had been raised.

Christie’s said that at the time of sale, Mr Shafrazi agreed that his “sole remedy” was limited to rescinding the contract and receiving back the purchase price. It rejects the plaintiffs’ claims for fraud, negligent inducement, negligent misrepresentation and other claims as too late or unfounded.