A major battle has begun in the art world! On February 21st, a group of 9 outraged art collectors took the The Haring Foundation, the organization in charge of maintaining and preserving the works and legacy of famed artist Keith Haring, to court. The alleged crime?. The organization is being sued on the grounds that it falsely labeled as many as 80 authentic Haring pieces ‘counterfeit’ or ‘fake’ in order to increase the value of it’s own assets.
But the defendant claims that the pieces are, in fact, ‘fake’. Who is telling the truth?
Known for bright colors and bold lines, Haring’s works reflected 1980s street culture and graffiti style. An SVA graduate, the artist gained worldwide popularity with his universally recognizable symbols and pieces, which often featured heavy political and social messages. There is no doubt that Haring’s iconic imagery is now one of the most widely recognized styles on the planet today. A note to all prospective collectors: be prepared to spend anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million for an original Haring acrylic on canvas!
This was the average range of pieces being sold at “Haring Miami”, a Florida exhibit and sale hosted by a group of private collectors in March of 2013. With 80 pieces or so, the show could have easily taken in over $50 million dollars. But after only two days on display, the collectors were notified of a lawsuit being placed against them for copyright infringement, stating that the pieces in the show were fakes. The group had no choice but to close the show, which was closely followed
by the filing of a counter-suit.
Official documentation shows that this battle started years before the Haring Miami show, circa 2007. The documents, presented in U.S. Federal District Court in Manhattan, states that in 2007 the collectors contacted the Haring Foundation’s authentication committee regarding a large number of pieces. Letters of authenticity and detailed photographs of dozens of works were sent to the committee for validation, only to have all pieces rejected as ‘not authentic’ with no explanation. When pressed for further information, the committee reportedly failed to provide any evidence that proved the pieces’ falsehood. This isn’t the only case of shady conduct when it comes to The Haring Foundation; other collectors have come forward with authenticity issues resulting in the same outcomes- denial without explanation, refusal to consider evidence, and unprofessional contact afterwards. It is also a known fact that the authentication committee disbanded in 2012, as it has been said by many sources, to avoid litigation.
Well, that was convenient, wasn’t it?
The collectors are suing for a hefty $40 million in sales losses resulting from the Miami scandal. This case is going to be a pivotal one for the art world. The ruling here has great potential to extend beyond the Haring Foundation and affect the entire world of art. You can be sure this case is going to be in the spotlight until the very end!
written by Alyx Harper for SoHoNYC.com