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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Gawker Brought Into New Yorker Fracas

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Canadian art authenticator has cast a wider net in his defamation lawsuit against The New Yorker, hoping to ream Gawker and about a half-dozen other media outlets and websites that publicized the magazine's original coverage.

Peter Paul Biro sued investigative journalist David Grann and The New Yorker magazine in July over an article it had printed one year earlier, titled "The Mark of a Masterpiece: The man who keeps finding famous fingerprints on uncelebrated works of art."

Grann's article had questioned Biro's technique of authenticating artwork through forensic analysis of fingerprints.

Biro called the article a "false and defamatory screed ... written and published with malice and an indifference to the standards of responsible journalism."

The lawsuit sought $2 million in damages from Condé Nast and Grann. The New Yorker's chief editor, David Remnick, responded at the time with a statement that defended Grann and his reportage as "painstaking in both its attention to the facts and tone."

As the story became "widely circulated," dozens of media outlets commented on it with the assumption that "it must be true because it's in the New Yorker," Biro says.

Biro filed an amended complaint against several of those entities, including ArtInfo, which allegedly reported "that Biro was part of a family of art forgers, and that he had been planting the forensic evidence into the questionable works himself."

Based on the New Yorker profile, Business Insider gave Biro the dubious distinction of being included on a list of "Nine of the Biggest Art Forgeries of All Time." That article states, "New Yorker reporter David Grann wrote a profile of Biro revealing him as a forger and long-term fraud who created phony fingerprints on paintings to market them as genuine."

Gawker, the news aggregating blog, took a more neutral position in its story titled, "Is This Man the Art World's High-Tech Hero or Villain?" The post itself leaves the answer ambiguous, concluding, "Just like the art he works with, it's hard to pin down the true story behind Peter Paul Biro. But as shown in the New Yorker piece (which you should really read in full), Biro's complicated cameras and forensic techniques have only introduced a new layer of uncertainty to the hazier corners of art history."

All these comments amount to defamation, according to Biro's amended complaint.

New defendants include Gawker, Business Insider, Louise Blouin Media, International Council of Museums, Georgia Museum of Art, Paddy Johnson of the blog ArtFagCity.com and Theresa Franks of Global Fine Art Registry.

Gawker did not respond to an email request for comment.

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