Sotheby's defends suit over a Motherwell

In a lawsuit that can only be described as highly unusual, Irish art dealer Oliver Sears has sued Sotheby’s auction house in US District Court, Southern District of New York, over a purported Robert Motherwell painting consigned for auction this past fall that was withdrawn before the November sale, since it was believed to be a fake.

The case as laid out in the legal complaint is not entirely clear and often very confusing. But it appears that what Sears saw featured in the Sotheby’s catalogue titled Brushy Elegy, and dated 1979—a work he owns and has physical possession of in his native country of Ireland—was likely a copy. Sears’ attorney says he was alarmed not only by the fact of seeing what he believed was his painting for sale, but also by the far lower estimate of what he says his authentic Motherwell is worth.