29 Jul 2012

Christie's told to return money for 'fake' art

10:01 pm on 29 July 2012

A High Court judge has ruled that auctioneer Christie's should return the sum of £1.5 million paid by a wealthy Russian art collector for a painting that was probably fake.

Mr Justice Newey concluded that the painting, Odalisque, which shows a nude woman asleep on a bed, was probably not painted by Boris Kustodiev, a Russian artist who has been compared with English painter L.S. Lowry.

The judge ruled that Christie's had not been negligent, but should return the money paid for the work to Avrora Fine Arts Investment, a firm run by Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, the Press Association reported.

"It follows that Avrora is entitled to cancel its purchase of the painting and recover the money it paid," the judge said.

Vekselberg's company bought the painting at a Christie's auction in London in 2005.

But Avrora took legal action against Christie's when an art dealer expressed doubts that the painting was genuine.

An expert called by Christie's thought the painting was authentic, although "not one of Kustodiev's best works".

Christie's lawyers insisted that Odalisque was authentic and the auction house could not be blamed if the painting was no masterpiece.