Manhattan Gallery Faces Lawsuit Over Fake Warhol Prints

She fears more deals with the gallery could be bogus.

An authentic edition of Andy Warhol, Space Fruit: Still Lifes (1979) sold in New York in 2012 for $92,500. Courtesy of Christie's

Scandal has rocked the prominent Lower East Side Woodward Gallery as the art dealers now face a lawsuit from an irate former investor.

85 year-old Oregon resident Nira Levine claims the gallery’s owners, John and Kristine Woodward, doctored authenticity documents for 90 Andy Warhol prints from the “Space Fruit” series they sold her in 2008.

Now Levine has filed a suit against them to discover whether the details of her other investments with the gallery, which include stakes in over 50 modern masterpieces, were also falsified, reports the New York Post.

The petition, filed in New York Supreme Court on June 30, stipulates that Levine either purchased the pieces outright or co-owned them with the Woodwards, who then resold them and evenly split the proceeds with Levine.

According to Courthouse News Service, the gallerists drew suspicion in 2014 when Levine learned the couple had overcharged her through a restorer’s condition report, which detailed that 63 out of the 76 prints in the “Spacefruit” collection had been deemed inauthentic by the Warhol Authentication Board.

When Levine asked the Woodwards to produce receipts for the collection confirming that they had purchased the works for $180,000 in 2008, Kristine Woodward confessed that there weren’t any, prompting Levine to conclude that the Woodwards had invented the 2008 transaction in order to swindle her out of $90,000.

The retired psychologist conceded that she had never actually seen the artwork or related documentation, citing her trust of the Woodwards’ expertise by way of explanation.

$90,000 is a hefty sum, but the bigger fear for Levine is that she may have been duped on a number of further works. Since 2002, Levine invested in around 140 paintings with the Woodward Gallery, the combined value of which totals nearly $1 million and includes masterpieces such as Pablo Picasso’s Green Hair Woman, and Keith Haring’s Subway, as well as a Jean-Michel Basquiat and a half dozen paintings attributed to Alexander Calder.

Levine is seeking a discovery order to gain access to the paperwork related to the purchases. In addition to the documentation, she also seeks a court order for John and Kristine Woodward to provide depositions on the purchases.

According to the Courthouse News Service, Levine says she intends to pursue a civil action against the couple on counts of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary, fraud and conversion.

The Post reports that Kristine Woodward declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations, saying the suit “has no merit,” and that the gallery “has continued to have integrity in all that we do in the last 23 years.”

UPDATE: In an email to artnet News, gallerist Kristine Woodward writes:

Woodward Gallery emphatically refutes Nira Levine’s baseless and inflammatory allegations. The Spacefruit prints which Levine, an art dealer herself, purchased through the Gallery, were authenticated with a rating of “A” by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board. The Andy Warhol Foundation has just confirmed those findings. The original Certificates of Authenticity were transferred to Nira Levine when she took possession of the prints in 2014. The prints themselves are additionally stamped with the aforementioned “A” numbers. Accordingly, there is no factual basis for her to now- or ever- claim that the prints are fake. It is shameful that Nira Levine would assert a dubious statement to the press when she in fact has obvious proof of her investment in hand.

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