Earlier this week, Sotheby’s and one of its specialists were found guilty of selling a fake painting by Greek artist Constantin Parthenis. As we reported earlier in Disputed Greek Art: First Water Diamonds or Forgeries, Greek shipping tycoon Diamantis Diamantides filed this lawsuit against Sotheby’s in January, alleging that the auction house fraudulently convinced him to buy two forgeries, one of which set a record for Parthenis in 2007, with the artist’s “The Virgin and Child” selling for $843,600. This week, the court ruled that the painting was a forgery and ordered that Sotheby’s and its specialist pay Diamantides $1.16 million.
Sotheby’s spokesperson Diana Phillips told ARTINFO that the auction house plans to appeal the decision. She said, “It stands to reason that an auction house which sells art worth billions of dollars per year and relies on its reputation to secure consignments and purchasers would not put its business at risk by knowingly selling forged works.”
The timing was bad for Sotheby’s, which was in the middle of its European Paintings sale in London. The auction featured work by Greek artists such as Constantinos Volanakis and Nikos Hadjikiriakos-Ghika, but failed to sell most of its Greek works.
Ever since the Greek art market began to take off in 2001, collectors have been reluctant to voice concerns that purchased art may be forgeries. Experts say that there is a general lack of trust in the justice system and novice buyers do not want to draw attention to their mistakes. These concerns clearly did not keep Diamantides from bringing his claim. Perhaps this lawsuit will lead others to come forward about allegedly fraudulent sales.