Counterfeit Damien Hirst Spin Painting
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. today announced the indictment of KEVIN SUTHERLAND, 45, for attempting to sell counterfeit artwork that he falsely claimed were by British artist Damien Hirst, including the artist’s “spin” paintings and “dot” limited edition prints worth thousands of dollars. The defendant is charged with Attempted Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.1
“The defendant is accused of trying to pass off fake paintings as valuable artwork by contemporary artist Damien Hirst,” said District Attorney Vance. “Over just the last three years, my Office has prosecuted the thefts of valuable paintings, including pieces by Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, and Fernand Leger, as well as a multi-million dollar art fraud scheme. New York’s art scene has long been an important part of the city’s culture and economy, and my Office will continue to rigorously protect the integrity of our city’s art market.”
Counterfeit Damien Hirst Spin Painting and Dot Limited Edition Prints
According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, in December 2012, SUTHERLAND submitted a spin painting purportedly by Damien Hirst to Sotheby’s, an auction house in Manhattan, where it was to be considered for sale in March 2013. He also allegedly informed Sotheby’s that he owned a second Hirst spin painting. In January 2013, Science Ltd., Damien Hirst’s studio in London, determined that the first spin painting was a counterfeit. Science Ltd. then contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, on January 29, 2013, an undercover New York City Police Department detective emailed SUTHERLAND and asked if he had a Hirst spin painting for sale. The defendant told the detective that he had a collection of Hirst’s artwork, but would not know whether he wanted to sell until the second week of March 2013.
On January 31, 2013, Sotheby’s notified SUTHERLAND that an expert had determined the painting was not authentic, and therefore, would not be included in the auction. Later that day, SUTHERLAND allegedly offered to sell two Hirst spin paintings to the undercover detective, as well as three Hirst dot limited edition prints, entitled “Valium,” “Opium,” and “LSD.” He assured the detective of the artwork’s authenticity, and suggested that the spin paintings were each worth between $120,000 and $140,000. After negotiations, SUTHERLAND agreed to sell to the detective both spin paintings and the three dot prints for $185,000.
On February 6, 2013, SUTHERLAND picked up the first spin painting and documents from Sotheby’s in Manhattan. The next day, the undercover detective met the defendant and examined the paintings and prints. The detective again asked SUTHERLAND if he had any reason to doubt the authenticity of the artwork, and the defendant again reassured him of their authenticity. After SUTHERLAND accepted a cash payment, he was arrested.
Science Ltd. later determined that the second spin painting and all three dot prints also were counterfeit.
Assistant District Attorney Jordan Arnold led the investigation and is handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, Principal Deputy Bureau Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Polly Greenberg, Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David M. Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Investigative Analyst David Coit and Financial Intelligence Analyst Eunice Choi provided assistance throughout the investigation.
District Attorney Vance thanked Sotheby’s New York, and the New York City Police Department, particularly Detectives Mark Fishstein, Michael Dorto, and Anthony Diaz of the Major Case Squad, and Detective Robert Mistretta of the District Attorney’s Squad.