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Art gallery sued over alleged Lennon fakes

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A Wisconsin man is suing a Maui art gallery that sold him nearly $200,000 worth of sketches by Beatle John Lennon—sketches the buyer now believes are counterfeits.

David Petersen of Waukesha, Wis., has spent a total of about $300,000 on Lennon sketches from galleries in New York, Florida and Hawaii. About two years ago, he purchased 16 sketches from Celebrites Galleries in Kihei.

"These were presented to me as being drawn by the hand of John Lennon," Petersen said in a phone interview yesterday.

The drawings were said to have been drawn in February 1972 and came with a statement authenticating the art pieces. Lennon was murdered in 1980 at age 40.

In 2008, when Petersen, 54, tried to auction two of the sketches, the auction owner suspected Petersen’s pieces were not authentic.

Over the next several months, Petersen put the sketches through ink and paper tests as well as a test by electrostatic apparatus, which measures minuscule impressions.

"We found inks that did not exist in Lennon’s lifetime," he said.

The lawsuit, filed July 2 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, names as defendants Celebrites Galleries; gallery co-owners Gerard Marti and wife Colleen Noah-Marti; a second business owned by the couple, the insurance company Insurance Factors in Honolulu; and a former employee.

Gerard Marti said by phone yesterday that his experts believe the works are genuine.

Marti said he acquired the pieces from a broker, whom he will be questioning, and said he will conduct his own investigation.

In his 19 years in business, Marti has never had anyone claim their purchases were fake, he said.

There are a lot of forgeries, Marti said, and it is difficult to confirm a piece’s authenticity unless one is present when the artist signs the item, leaving collectors to rely on a scientific examiner.

"You have to back yourself up with the opinion of a professional," he said.

According to the lawsuit, Petersen also bought a microphone from Celebrites that Lennon purportedly used to record the album "Imagine" in 1971.

But the serial number showed the microphone was not made until six years later, the lawsuit said.

Marti, who bought the mike from the recording studio, said Lennon did use it and that the only discrepancy is the date. He said Lennon used the microphone in the late 1970s and that it was later used by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.

 

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