Are those real?

Counterfeit products are out there, but it’s not just consumers who need to be cautious.  The Federal Court recently found that art valuer Peter Gant engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct when he valued (in his capacity as a professional) three drawings at approximately $10k each.  The pieces appeared to be the works of famous Australian artists Charles Blackman and Robert Dickerson.  It was later discovered that the works were fake.  They weren’t copies of actual Blackman and Dickerson works, rather they were drawings “in the style” of Blackman and Dickerson and were falsely signed accordingly. 
 
The drawings were returned and the money refunded, but the purchaser wanted them destroyed (as well as compensation in the amount of $25,000).  The Court began by hearing evidence on the authenticity of the drawings.  When asked about the “Pensive Woman” drawing in court (shown below) Dickerson denied ever drawing or signing it, described it as “bloody awful”, “clumsy” and said that “it looks as though her head’s been exploded off the body”.
 
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The purchaser alleged that Gant’s valuations of the paintings constituted misleading and deceptive conduct even though there was no suggestion that Gant had acted other than honestly and reasonably when making his assessment.  The Court held that “innocent mistake” is no defence to such a claim, and found against Gant, stating that the valuations implied that the drawings were genuine and had been relied on by the purchaser.  Gant was ordered to deliver the returned drawings to the misled purchaser for destruction.
 
The silver lining for Gant was his successful avoidance of a damages claim.  The purchaser, who owned various other genuine Blackman and Dickerson works, claimed that fake drawings on the market created uncertainty around genuine works thereby lowering their value and that Gant’s valuation of the fakes had contributed to this.  The loss suffered by the purchaser was alleged to be $25,000.  The Court didn’t reject the rationale of the argument, rather it found that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim.
 
The judgment on the question of damages can be found here.  The remaining issues are considered here.

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