The sister of famed graffiti artist turned art icon Jean-Michel Basquiat are claiming that art works currently listed at Christie's auction house are phonies, and they have filed a $1 million false endorsement and false advertising lawsuit, the New York Daily News reports.
Jeanine Basquiat Heriveaux and Lisan Basquiat claim that the famed auction house, which has sold several of Basquiat's paintings in the past, didn't verify many of the roughly 50 pieces on sale this month.
The siblings, who handle their brother's estate, claim that Christie's approached the authentication committee in 2007 with seven pieces. The estate didn't sign off on one of them but the other six proved to be authentic.
"The remainder of the catalog items were not only not authenticated by the authentication committee … but also were never submitted to them for review," the plaintiffs to the Daily News.
The suit alleges that the works, being sold on behalf of Basquiat's ex-girlfriend Alexis Adler, weren't submitted to the estate for review because Christie's knew or had reason to believe that the items were fakes, the Daily News reports.
Christie’s said in a statement Wednesday, viewed by CBS New York, that the auction house has been in "direct and amicable contact" with the Basquiat estate about the authenticity concerns.
"As a result of those talks, Christie’s is moving forward with Thursday’s First Open sale as planned, with the exclusion of a single lot to allow for further review and research," the statement said.
CBS New York notes that the piece in question that's been pulled from the auction is titled "Milk," and is a steel radiator with the words "Milk" scrawled across it in black acrylic paint.
Basquiat's sisters claim that "an average person could see that the printing on the (items) was done by a number of different individuals."
The suit also alleges that while Christie's never contacted them for authentication, the auction house is including a notice claiming that the estate has copyrighted the pieces.
"Christie's included the misleading notice to increase the auction prices … and to maximize Christie's income from their sales," the suit alleges.
The sisters are seeking at least $1 million in damages and a court order barring Christie's from using the estate's name in the sale, the Daily News reports.
In 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at 27. His works have sold at auction for as much as $48 million, and Jay Z often boasts about owning a few of the artist's pieces.
"Hopefully, this action will put Christie's and the art world in general on notice that the rights of the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat must be respected,” said the Basquiats' lawyer, James Cinque.