Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Peter Doig 'Absolutely Did Not Paint' Canadian-Owned Work, Judge Rules

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Peter Doig 'Absolutely Did Not Paint' Canadian-Owned Work, Judge Rules

Article excerpt

Doig 'absolutely did not paint' disputed work


A painting at the centre of a strange multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit filed by a former Canadian correctional officer who owns the canvas was not the work of famed artist Peter Doig, a Chicago judge ruled Tuesday.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said the evidence showed that Doig, whose paintings have sold for more than $20 million, was not in a prison in Thunder Bay, Ont., when the desert landscape was painted in 1976 and sold to the guard.

"Peter Doig could not have been the author of the work," Feinerman said in his decision, calling it a case of mistaken identity.

The unprecedented battle, closely watched by the art world, involved a claim by Robert (Bob) Fletcher, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who claimed Doig painted the canvas, once valued at more than $10 million.

Doig, who lived in Toronto decades ago, disavowed the work, arguing the acrylic landscape was by a Peter Doige, a man who once spent time locked up in Thunder Bay for a drug offence. Doig said he had never been in the northern Ontario city and only began painting on canvas in 1979.

In an interview minutes after the verdict, Fletcher, 62, expressed his disappointment, but said he remained convinced he owns an authentic Doig.

"A lot of the evidence that we brought forth really wasn't given much weight," Fletcher told The Canadian Press.

He said an appeal was possibile, but noted the case had already cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of which he said he had paid his fair share.

"Maybe we just can't afford to move on," Fletcher said. "It hasn't been a cheap venture, that's for sure."

Among other things, Feinerman noted yearbook photos proved Doig, now 57, was at a Toronto high school and not in the Thunder Bay prison where Fletcher worked.

Doig "absolutely did not paint" the impugned work, which was in fact by Doige, Feinerman found.

The suit had alleged Doig's disavowal of the canvas -- ostensibly to hide his criminal past -- potentially cost Fletcher millions.

"I have rarely seen such a flagrant example of unethical conduct in the U.S. courts -- nor a case that inflicted such needless burdens on a defendant," Doig's lawyer, Matthew Dontzin, said in a statement after the verdict. …

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