Art Market

A London art dealer paid Sotheby’s $4.2 million to settle a dispute over a possibly forged Frans Hals.

Wallace Ludel
Apr 2, 2019 4:21PM, via Bloomberg

A painting, Portrait of a Man, once attributed to Frans Hals, but which Sotheby’s subsequently declared a forgery. Via Wikimedia Commons.

London-based art dealer Mark Weiss has agreed to pay a $4.2 million settlement to Sotheby’s after the auction house sold a possibly fraudulent Frans Hals on his behalf in 2011. The payment was made just hours before a trial over the sale was scheduled to begin. The terms of the settlement are confidential, though Weiss made the payment “without any admission of liability.”

The painting, Portrait of a Gentlemen, had been attributed to Dutch Old Master Frans Hals, though its provenance came into question after technicians hired by Sotheby’s discovered pigments in the paint that could only have been used centuries after Hals’s death. In 2016, Sotheby’s declared the painting to be a forgery and reimbursed the collector who had paid $10.8 million for it in 2011. Sotheby’s is still in the process of suing Fairlight Art Ventures LLP, the company that co-owned the painting along with Weiss’s company, Mark Weiss Ltd.

Fairlight argues that it shouldn’t have to return payment to Sotheby’s because it wasn’t a direct party to the sale. Farlight’s lawyer Nigel Rowley also denies entirely that the painting has been proved fraudulent. He told Bloomberg, “Nobody has proven that the piece is either genuine or a fake,” adding that Sotheby’s refunded the collector who purchased the painting “without proper evidence” and this “was not a decision that contractually they were required to take.”

Sotheby’s and Fairlight Art Ventures will take their dispute to trial.

Wallace Ludel