A legal dispute over an allegedly forged Frans Hals painting that passed through Sotheby’s is back in court, according to a report by the Art Newspaper.
In December 2019, a London High Court ruled that the consignor of the painting, the company Fairlight Art Ventures, owes the house repayment for offering it. But now Fairlight has appealed the decision, reportedly using a legal particularity defining their role in the transaction to claim that they do not owe Sotheby’s.
The painting, Portrait of a Gentleman, was sold privately in 2011 by Sotheby’s for $10.8 million. Five years later, the house declared it a forgery and repaid its buyer. Fairlight had consigned the work to Sotheby’s with London dealer Mark Weiss, who reached a settlement with the house while admitting no wrongdoing.
A London court said in 2019 that Sotheby’s had acted according to the terms of its contract, and Fairlight was ordered to pay $5.3 million. The court did not offer an answer as to whether the work is fake.
Now, Fairlight has reportedly claimed that it was a “financier,” not a “partner,” to Weiss in the transaction, and that Sotheby’s was a “sub-agent.” Because of this, Fairlight alleged that there was no contract binding the transaction involving the Hals. At a hearing, a justice presiding over the appeal questioned the overall practices guiding the sale, saying that “a painting which appeared from nowhere might ring all alarm bells.”
A representative for Fairlight declined to comment. A representative for Sotheby’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.