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Alec Baldwin Settles over Fake Painting
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Alec Baldwin

Summary: Actor Alec Baldwin has settled with the owner of a gallery who sold him a fake painting by Ross Bleckner called “Sea and Mirror.”

Alec Baldwin enjoys nice paintings just like a lot of other people but he is not an art expert. When he attended a showing of artist Ross Bleckner’s work sometime after the painting “Sea and Mirror” was painted in 1996, Baldwin fell in love with the painting and several others.


Baldwin kept thinking about Bleckner’s paintings for years to come until he finally reached out to New York gallery owner Mary Boone to purchase the canvas painting with shimmering shapes and another Bleckner piece from the “Time” series. Boone apparently emailed Baldwin back, saying she was “thrilled” he wanted the painting, agreeing on the price of $190,000. Baldwin received the painting a few months later.

Sea and Mirror

The painting was signed, dated and stamped on the back with 7449, the inventory number of the 1996 work. The colors though seemed off to Baldwin. He described the colors as being “bright, like M&M’s,” and the brushstrokes as “less feathery, and the paint smelled…fresh.” Baldwin added in an interview with The New Yorker that “When I called up Mary and asked, ‘Why do these paintings look so different?’ she said the owner was a heavy smoker, so Ross has taken the painting off the stretcher and cleaned and repaired it for me, as a courtesy, before delivering it. At first, I was not prepared to tell myself it was a fake. I was inclined to believe them, partly because it was Ross, who I respect and whose work I love.”

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Six years later the topic of the painting came up when Baldwin was with some artist friends. They told him the story did not sound right since no reputable artist or dealer would have a painting cleaned without getting permission from the owner. They suggested that he had been tricked so Baldwin hired an expert from Sotheby’s to make sure. That expert confirmed that the painting was not the original “Sea and Mirror” from 1996 that Baldwin thought he had purchased.

Now Baldwin had evidence that something was not right so he first went to Bleckner, arranging a meeting with him at a friend’s house. Bleckner admitted to Baldwin that it was a fake. He said, “I’m so sorry about all of this. I feel so bad about this.”

Baldwin then went to Boone to find out what he had been sold a fake. After trying to reach her numerous times, she finally admitted on the phone to Baldwin that “You caught me. I wanted to make you happy.” She promised a full refund plus interest. This was a decent apology but Baldwin wanted to expose her so that no one else would be tricked by her actions.

The statute of limitations had expired for criminal charges so Baldwin filed a civil lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court against her and her gallery, claiming she intentionally defrauded him. He alleged in the lawsuit that since she was unable to buy back the original painting from the owner who bought it at Sotheby’s in 2007, she enlisted Bleckner to make another one. He was seeking punitive and exemplary damages.

Her lawyer asked the court to dismiss the suit, claiming Baldwin knew exactly what he had bought and calling him a whiny celebrity throwing a temper tantrum. They declined the request and scheduled a trial for 2018. When Baldwin’s lawyers discovered emails discussing the painting with references to making sure it was aged and the paint was dry, Boone opted to settle.

According to The New Yorker, Baldwin settled with Boone on a seven-figure number after he sued her for civil-fraud. Baldwin and his attorneys believe the settlement far exceeds the value of the painting and is more than he would have been awarded by a jury.

Baldwin has the fake painting in a crate in his basement but plans to take it on tour sometime as part of a series on art fraud. Baldwin said he plans on donating half of the settlement money to a fund to rebuild the Sag Harbor Cinema. He also received several other Bleckner paintings as part of the settlement.

Do you think art fraud is a serious problem? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about Alec Baldwin, read these articles:

Baldwin Photo: tribute.ca

Painting Photo: LA Times


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