A hedge fund-backed art dealer just lost an $11 million ruling to Sotheby’s over an allegedly fake painting

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Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider
  • Hedge fund manager David Kowitz was ordered to pay Sotheby’s roughly $6.6 million after a judge ruled against the investor in a case involving an allegedly fake painting.
  • The lawsuit concerns the $10.8 million sale of “Portrait of a Gentleman,” a painting attributed to Dutch artist Frans Hals. The 2011 sale was consigned by art dealer Mark Weiss and Kowitz’s art vehicle, Fairlight Art Ventures.
  • The London judge ordered Weiss to pay a $4.2 million settlement to Sotheby’s in April, and Wednesday’s ruling found Fairlight must repay the remainder of the $10.8 to the auction house.
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Hedge fund founder David Kowitz is on the hook for roughly $6.6 million after a London judge ordered the investor to pay Sotheby’s for an allegedly fake painting, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The case involves the $10.8 million sale of “Portrait of a Gentleman,” a painting attributed to Dutch artist Frans Hals. The 2011 sale was consigned by art dealer Mark Weiss and Kowitz, who founded Indus Capital Partners and owns art investment firm Fairlight Art Ventures.

The Dutch Golden Age painting fell under scrutiny when art experts hired by the auction house found it included synthetic paint pigments first used four centuries after Hals died. Sotheby’s reimbursed the painting’s buyer and sued Weiss and Fairlight.

Weiss paid $4.2 million to settle the lawsuit in April, and Judge Robin Knowles ruled Wednesday that Fairlight owes the remainder of the $10.8 million sum, including costs and 5% interest, according to Bloomberg.

Sotheby’s called the painting an “unequivocal” fake in February 2017, telling The New York Times that, although Weiss conducted his own investigation into the painting, “none of these further tests would change its conclusion.”

Knowles claimed the case hinged more on the artist than the piece itself, Bloomberg reported. He noted that the court wouldn’t judge the value of the work in case such a statement would change its worth, forgery or not.

“Whether by Frans Hals or not, it is to be hoped that its intrinsic qualities will not be ignored, and that it may be enjoyed for what it is, which is a fine painting,” the judge reportedly said.

Sotheby’s hasn’t yet replied to a request for comment. Kowitz couldn’t be reached for comment.

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