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The week in art news – Peter Doig awarded $2.5m in dispute over painting he didn’t paint

20 January 2023

Peter Doig has been awarded $2.5m in sanctions – the culmination of a bizarre legal case that began nearly a decade ago. In 2013, Doig was sued by retired prison officer Robert Fletcher and Chicago gallerist Peter Bartlow. Fletcher claimed that he had bought an early landscape from Doig, completed by the painter during his time in prison in 1976; when Doig, who has never spent time in prison, denied this version of events, Fletcher and Bartlow argued that his disavowal diminished the market value of their painting. The painting itself is signed ‘Pete Doige’ – a name (and spelling) shared by a painter who died in 2012, before which he had done time during the ’70s in the Thunder Bay Correctional Center, Ontario, where Fletcher worked. A Chicago judge ruled in Doig’s favour in 2016, after which Doigmoved for sanctions; the painter’s lawyer has said that the money he receives will be donated to a non-profit that provides incarcerated people with opportunities to make art.

Three defendants have confessed to their involvement the jewellery theft from the Green Vault in Dresden in 2019. Last month, German police recovered a ‘considerable portion’ of the 18th-century jewels, valued at around €113.8m and stolen during a night-time raid that has been described by German media as the biggest art heist in modern history. In total, six defendants – brothers and cousins from the same criminal gang – are on trial, with lighter sentences having been offered in exchange for confession and the return of the jewels.  A fourth is expected to issue a statement on Friday; a fifth has rejected any such deal and a sixth says he has an alibi.

A former payroll manager has been accused of stealing more than $2m from the Art Institute of Chicago between 2007–20. Federal prosecutors charged Michael Maurello with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud, with an indictment alleging that he directed payroll payments to his own bank account before concealing them with a variety of means.

The House of Lords has released a report this week that fiercely criticises the UK government’s handling of the arts, accusing it of ‘complacency’. The report calls on the government to fix policies ‘characterised by incoherence and barriers to success’ and put creative industries – worth £115bn in 2019 – at the centre of its plans for future growth; practical suggestions include improving Research and Development tax relief and abandoning plans to water down copyright law.

The director of the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Manuel Borja-Villel, has revealed that he will not be standing for re-election to serve a fourth term; he departs from the museum today (Friday 20 January) after 15 years at the helm. During his tenure the museum staged major exhibitions of work by Nancy Spero, Paul Thek and Rosemarie Trockel, among many others. Borja-Villel now turns his attentions to co-curating the 2023 Saõ Paolo Bienal, which opens in September. In London, Paul Thompson, Vice Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, is standing down in 2024 after 15 years in post. Last year, Thompson oversaw the completion of the largest expansion in the institution’s history, with the opening of a £135m new campus in Battersea designed by Herzog & De Meuron.