CHICAGO (AP) — Internationally heralded artist Peter Doig was correct when he insisted that he didn't paint a landscape work that had been valued at more than $10 million, a federal judge in Chicago said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman made the comment as he began explaining his reasoning in the case as he led up to a verdict. He had not yet formally announced a verdict, but the entire case of the painting's owner, Robert Fletcher, hinged on his claim that the Scottish-born Doig painted it.
Feinerman said evidence clearly showed that it's a case of mistaken identity and that a different Peter Doige, who spelled his last name with an 'e,' actually created the artwork.
The suit was filed in Chicago because one auctioneer who had expressed interest in selling the painting is based in the city.
Fletcher, a retired prison official from Canada, filed a lawsuit in U.S. court for millions in damages after the painting's projected sale price tanked following Doig's disavowal of it.
Fletcher maintained that the painting of a desert landscape, which he paid $100 for in the 1970s, is by Doig. He claimed he bought it while Doig was serving prison time in Canada's Thunder Bay Correctional Center.
Feinerman, who spoke as the work at the center of the case sat on a courtroom easel to his left, pointed to high school yearbook photos and said that proved Doig was in a Toronto high school when Fletcher said he was painting in a prison where he worked.
"Peter Doig could not have been the author of the work," the judge said.
Doig's works are prized for their ethereal scenes often with subjects appearing as ghostly figures in forests or lakes. His painting of someone slumped over a canoe, entitled "Swamped," sold last year at Christie's for $25.9 million, according to the action company's website.
Authenticity disputes typically arise long after an artist dies, not, as in this case, when the artist is still living and flatly denies a work is his. The oddity of such a dispute making it all the way to trial has created a stir in the art world, where the principle is widely accepted that artists' word on whether a work is theirs or not is final.