Artist Peter Doig was awarded $2.53 million dollars in damages after being sued by a former corrections officer who attempted to force Doig to admit he was the creator of the officer’s painting. The original case dates back to 2016 when Robert Fletcher, the corrections officer in question, attempted to sell a painting he claimed was by Peter Doig. According to Fletcher, he’d initially met Doig at Lakehead University in Canada, and then again when Doig was serving a jail sentence in the facility where Fletcher was a corrections officer. Fletcher claimed he also served as Doig’s parole officer.
The painting itself is signed “Pete Doige”. Doig claimed that not only was it not his work, but that he had never attended Lakehead University nor been in jail. Fletcher sued Doig in attempt to get a court ruling that the painting was in fact by Doig and that Doig had harmed Fletcher by disclaiming attribution and destroying the value of the painting.
Despite Doig’s evidence that not only was he not the artist, but that the painting was likely done by a gentleman named Peter Edward Doige, Fletcher persisted in his attempt to attribute the painting to Doig, claiming that Doig was intentionally lying to prevent the sale of the painting. The case was decided in Doig’s favor, not only by the overwhelming evidence that Doig never attended Lakehead University and never served a jail sentence, but also by the testimony of Peter Edward Doige’s sister, who testified that not only did her brother attend Lakehead University, he also served a jail sentence at the same correctional facility where Fletcher worked.
The judge assessed damages in the amount of $2.53 million against Fletcher and his lawyer, stating in his opinion that the complaint was made, “without an objectively reasonable basis” and that Fletcher and his lawyer “made reckless or misleading allegations in [their] complaint.”
Attribution cases made against living artists are very rare. Most are fought years after an artist’s death. In the case above it was easy for Doig to prove that he was not the artist. So not only did Fletcher end up with a painting that had no value, he will now have to pay damages for his misguided (at best) persistence is trying to force Doig to admit attribution of a work that was not his.
If you’re an artist concerned about your legacy, make sure to keep a detailed record of all works created by you. It will help prevent future lawsuits attempting to attribute a work to you that is not yours (and vice versa!).