Monday, March 20, 2006

Not Your Usual Authentication Lawsuit

The Wall Street Journal had a piece late last week (no free link I can find) that dovetails nicely with the New York Times's continuing coverage of the disputed Costco Picassos. Normally you see the fear of litigation working to prevent people from declaring works to be fake (at least not without big fat release/indemnity agreements in place). The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, for example, was once sued for rejecting a painting which had the artist's own name spelled wrong in an inscription on the back. But in the case the Journal discusses (also summarized nicely here), the tables were turned: after the owner of the painting sued over the denial of authenticity, the expert sued him and his lawyers (Gibson Dunn & Crutcher) for malicious prosecution and abuse of process under Montana law -- and got a $21 million verdict ($20 million against Gibson Dunn). Which reminds me of nothing so much as Ambrose Bierce's definition of litigation: a machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.