|Keith Haring, "Untitled (Radiant Baby)", 1990|
Nine art collectors have recently filed a $40 million lawsuit against the Keith Haring Foundation, which publicly labelled roughly 80 works as fakes, apparently refusing to consider additional information that would have helped to establish their provenance.
The collectors said that they started purchasing Haring's artworks from some artist's friends in 2007. In the same year, a dealer working with Elizebeth Bilinski, one the collectors, submitted photographic transparencies of dozens of the works and letters of provenance to the foundation's authentication committee, which rejected the works as "not authentic", without any explanation, according to the suit.
In March 2013, the plaintiffs exhibited these works at a Haring show in Miami and the foundation sued the show's organizers claiming that the majority of the works were fake and that many of them had already been found to be "not authentic" by the foundation back in 2007 when Ms. Bilinski had submitted them.
The plaintiffs argue that the foundation's actions have "limited the number of Haring works in the public domain, thereby increasing the value of the Haring works that the foundation and its members own or sell." In this regard, they report that the foundation sold more than $4.5 million worth of Haring's artworks between 2008 and 2011, and then, in 2012, the foundation disbanded its authentication committee.
The plaintiffs seek $40 million in damages, saying that they lost sales because potential buyers were deterred by the foundation's statement and actions. The collectors said that their works were effectively unsalable in major auction houses if they were not first certified by the foundation.
The case is Bilinski et al. v the Keith Haring Foundation Inc. et al, U.S. District Court for Southern New York, No. 14 - cv-1085.