CULTURAL ARTS

Realor not?Legal drama over art

 

ejester@MiamiHerald.com

A showdown over art — real and possibly not so real – is playing out in the Miami Design District, complete with legal threats, court orders and lots of confusion.

At issue: whether pieces in an exhibit featuring the works of 1980s pop-artist Keith Haring have been properly authenticated.

Proskauer, a New York law firm representing the Keith Haring Foundation is demanding that the exhibit remove all but 10 of the 175 pieces of art. U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in Miami issued the order Friday. The deadline to act: 7 p.m.

As the deadline loomed, the entire exhibit appeared to remain intact.

On Friday evening, the show went on as planned. Organizers took $25 admission from art lovers who wandered in from the street. No one was moving artwork out of the exhibit space as the deadline passed.

Michael Rosen, who co-produced the exhibit with Manny Hernandez, said the two had come to an agreement with the Haring Foundation in which one of the 12 collections in the exhibit would be removed and the rest would be allowed to remain. Rosen said the collection at issue had been removed earlier Friday.

But there is some question on the size of the unauthenticated collection. Rosen said it was a small part of the exhibit, while the collection’s attorney, Stephen Weingrad, said the collection could encompass 100 pieces of work.

Rosen’s attorney, Herman Russomanno III, sent an email to the Miami Herald indicating that the exhibit would continue to show only the 10 pieces of art that were authenticated by the Haring Foundation.

“If there’s anything left there other than those 10 pieces, we’re going to have a problem,” said Sarah Gold, a Florida attorney who is filing a lawsuit on behalf of the Keith Haring Foundation.

“Haring Miami,” which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the Moore Building on Northeast 40th Street and Second Avenue, celebrates the life and art of Keith Haring, whose brightly colored paintings of featureless people became the international logo of Best Buddies, an organization for the advancement of people with developmental disabilities. Haring died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.

The Keith Haring Foundation became aware of the “Haring Miami” exhibit in January, when Rosen and Hernandez began advertising, said Michael Stout, an attorney representing the New York foundation.

Stout’s legal partner, Eric Johnson, said he asked Rosen for information about where each of the 200 pieces came from and documentation of their authenticity. The information Rosen sent back wasn’t satisfactory, Johnson said.

“It would be impossible to mount and exhibit 200 or more works without involving the foundation,” Stout said on Friday. “It became apparent that there was something wrong here.”

Rosen insists that everything in the show is authentic.

He said that because the Haring Foundation no longer has a committee that authenticates pieces of art — only attorneys who go after copyright infringements — the approximately 165 unauthenticated pieces of art in the exhibit aren’t necessarily fake. They simply might not have been examined and authenticated by the foundation yet.

For example, furniture and installation art like the images Haring drew directly onto light posts in the 1980s aren’t usually authenticated.

“You’ll never find any piece of Keith Haring-painted T-shirt or clothing that has a foundation authentication letter,” Rosen said.

To get around that idea, he posted a disclaimer at the entrance: “The art in this exhibition may be by the artist Keith Haring or from his circle of friends. . . . the owners and publisher of this catalog and curator cannot and does not guarantee the authenticity of the works.”

However, the exhibit had been extensively advertised as featuring the work of Keith Haring.

In addition to removing all but the 10 authenticated pieces of Keith Haring artwork, the court order filed Friday calls on Rosen and his company, Colorful Thumb, to stop distribution of and destroy all catalogs and brochures associated with the exhibit.

Rosen said the items were no longer being distributed as of Friday.

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