~ Desert Landscape, signed “Pete Doige 76” ~
On August 23, Illinois federal Judge Gary Feinerman said Scottish artist Peter Doig “absolutely did not paint the disputed work.”
It was a highly unusual case to begin with. Rarely has a living artist been legally forced to disprove his authorship of a work that was being offered for sale. The case resulted from Doig’s refusal to authenticate a work offered for sale by a former Corrections officer, Robert Fletcher of Thunder Bay, and a Chicago art dealer, Peter Bartlow. Fletcher claims to have bought the work from an incarcerated man named “Pete Doige” in 1976. Peter Doig claimed it was not him, but another man who died in 2012. The man’s sister’s sworn testimony and other corroborating evidence convinced Judge Feinerman that it was a case of mistaken identity.
This case raises a serious question. How many artists under similar circumstances and lacking the financial wherewithal to endure a legal battle, might be coerced to acknowledge a work that is not their own? This would be a grave disservice to what should be an inherent right of any artist to authenticate — or not — their own work. It is a right that deserves legal protection.
— Jules Cavanaugh
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