Alec Baldwin was duped into paying $190,000 for a counterfeit version of a painting he’d long coveted — and he is now suing the Manhattan gallery owner who pulled off the alleged scheme for three times the value of the artwork.
Mary Boone, owner of the Mary Boone galleries in midtown Manhattan and Chelsea, sold Baldwin what the “30 Rock” actor believed to be a 1996 painting titled “Sea and Mirror” by contemporary artist Ross Bleckner in 2010.
Baldwin had his eye on the piece since 2006 when he attended a show of Bleckner’s works at the Mary Boone Gallery.
But it wasn’t for sale.
“Ms. Boone told Mr. Baldwin she would look into obtaining the work from the collector who currently owned it,” the Manhattan civil suit says.
Four years after the show Boone wrote to Baldwin with detailed information about the painting’s provenance and said she could obtain it for him in exchange for a $15,000 fee.
Baldwin — who touts his “multiple Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards” in the suit — readily agreed.
He noted his concern to Boone that the artwork “appeared brighter and smelled different than he would have expected” when he received it. The gallerist claimed that she had “Sea and Mirror” cleaned before delivering it to Baldwin because the prior owner was a heavy smoker, the suit says.
He proudly hung the painting in his office and bragged about the acquisition during a speech at a 2012 Kennedy Center event honoring Paul McCartney.
“I love this thing so much,” he said in his remarks.
Then in May during a “chance encounter with several art experts,” Baldwin “became concerned about the authenticity of the work Ms. Boone had delivered,” the suit says.
The experts told Baldwin that “it was highly uncommon for a gallerist to clean a painting before delivering it to a purchaser,” because the process could damage the work.
Baldwin then emailed the painter about his worries, who in turn looped in Boone. At first the gallery owner ignored Baldwin’s queries, so he had the piece appraised by a Sotheby’s expert. The examination revealed the actor’s worst fears — that he’d been defrauded, the suit says.
That’s when the gallerist finally admitted that she sold Baldwin a copy, and not the original piece that she had promised to deliver to him in 2010, the suit says.
Baldwin sued after Boone failed to get him the original painting, according to court papers.
A lawyer for the gallery did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the attorney, Ted Poretz, told The New York Times in an August article about the dispute that the “painting is not a copy; it’s an original and very fine work of art by Ross Bleckner.”
Baldwin is suing for damages equal to three times the value of the painting, plus other costs.