Keith Haring Foundation Wants ‘Fakes’ Stopped

     MIAMI (CN) – The Keith Haring Foundation claims in court that a Florida company is selling “poor quality fakes” of the late artist’s work that threaten to flood the market.
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     The Keith Haring Foundation sued Colored Thumb Corp. and its president Michael Rosen in Federal Court, alleging trademark infringement and dilution, copyright infringement, false advertising and cybersquatting.
     Haring was world famous when he died at 41 in 1990.
     “Defendants are currently promoting and conducting an art show that purports to feature original works by Keith Haring and his ‘friend,'” the complaint states. “In fact, the overwhelming majority of the works are not by Keith Haring; they are counterfeits and/or infringements. Defendants are also offering these counterfeit and/or infringing works for sale, and may have already made sales of such work.”
     It adds: “Defendants are currently promoting and conducting an art show at the Moore Building in Miami, titled ‘Haring Miami.’ This show is subtitled ‘A Celebration of the Life & Art of Keith Haring.’ The show takes place from March 7-10, 2013, with a VIP opening on the evening of March 6. The web site that promotes the show, www .haringmiami.com, features an image of Keith Haring’s artwork called ‘Retrospect’ from 1989, which consists of multiple squares of different images.
     “The overwhelming majority of the works featured at the show are not genuine Haring artworks. Rather, they are fakes, forgeries, counterfeits, and/or infringements.
     “Defendants appear to acknowledge that not all of the works are genuine. At the very bottom of defendants’ website, there is the word ‘disclaimer’ that is clearly not designed to be noticeable. If a user clicks on this word, one is taken to a page that lists five general disclaimers about attendance at the show. The bottom of this page states: ‘The art in this catalog may be by the artist Keith Haring or from his circle of friends. In that this is an expansive Exhibit, some of the artwork has not been submitted or examined by the Keith Haring Foundation for authenticity.'”
     After five more sentences of disclaimers, according to the complaint, the cited disclaimer concludes: “‘Some of the works have been submitted and approved by the Foundation; some have been submitted and not authenticated by them with a caveat that they reserve their right to possibly authenticate the pieces upon further examination. Others have not been submitted.’
     “This hidden ‘disclaimer’ fails to note that many of the works have been submitted to
     The Haring Foundation for authenticity – and were found to be inauthentic. Many works featured in defendants’ show that purport to be by Keith Haring were submitted to The Haring Foundation for authentication in 2007 by a collector named Liz Bilinski. The Haring Foundation advised Ms. Bilinski that the works were not authentic,” the complaint states.
     Bilinski is not a party to the complaint.
     The complaint adds: “At the show, there are approximately 80 works of acrylic on canvas, some of which are quite large. All but one of the acrylics on canvas are fake. Each of these works of art, if they were real Haring works, would be worth in the range of $500,000 to $1 million dollars.
     “Putting such works of art into the market will cause enormous and irreparable damage to The Haring Foundation. Sales of poor quality works purporting to be authentic Keith Haring work depress the value of the work because it discredits the genius and innovative nature of the authentic artwork, people can buy the fake artwork cheaply and people also come to regard Haring’s work as amateurish because of poor quality fakes, such as are being shown at Haring Miami. Further, if not stopped, the market could be flooded with these fakes. And, once they hit the market, they will be extremely difficult if not impossible to track down and control. They will defraud investors and collectors who, among other things, purchase authentic artworks from the Foundation’s representatives. It would destabilize the market for authentic Keith Haring artwork. For example, if the approximately 80 acrylic works on canvas in the show were real Harings, their collective value would be more than $40 million. In fact, they are poor quality fake Harings and infringements of copyrighted and trademarked Haring artworks. Since there are so many, their entry into the market would certainly have an effect on the sale and the price of real Haring artwork.”
     Haring, who died of complications of AIDS, established his foundation in 1989, partly to support “not-for-profit organizations that assist children, as well as organizations involved in education, research, and care related to AIDS,” the complaint states.
     “In addition, before his death, he charged The Haring Foundation with maintaining and protecting his artistic legacy. The Haring Foundation maintains a collection of Keith Haring’s art along with archives that facilitate historical research about him and the times and places in which he lived and worked.”
     The Foundation seeks an injunction, damages, and disgorgements of profits.
     It is represented by Matthew Triggs and Sarah Gold, with Proskauer Rose, of Boca Raton.

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