Florida pastor charged in fake Damien Hirsts sting

Pastor Kevin Sutherland is indicted with attempting to sell faked Hirst spot and spin paintings to Sotheby's
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The front and back of Pastor Kevin's spin painting. Images courtesy of the New York County DA's Office
The front and back of Pastor Kevin's spin painting. Images courtesy of the New York County DA's Office

The Miami art scene is widely regarded as a benign cultural influence, which has helped to raise the city's standing both within the US and abroad. Yet, some residents, apparently take the opportunities it presents a little too far, it appears. 

Last week a Christian pastor real estate developer Kevin Sutherland, of the Mosaic Miami Church, was formally charged with attempting to sell counterfeit works by Damien Hirst. Court documents state that Sutherland tried to consign a spin painting to Sotheby's New York auction house last December, for sale in its March 7 Contemporary Art auction.

However, Sotheby's, its suspicions raised by the signature on the rear of the canvas, contacted Hirst's company, Science Ltd., to authenticate the painting.

 

Signature on Pastor Kevin's work (left) and an authentic Hirst signature (right)
Signature on Pastor Kevin's work (left) and an authentic Hirst signature (right)

By January 2013, Science Ltd had determined that the work was a forgery and, towards the end of the month, an officer from New York Police Department emailed Sutherland, posing as a prospective buyer, to ask whether the pastor had any other works for sale.

Sutherland met with officers at the Gramercy Park Hotel last month (February), with a view to selling them both a spot and a spin painting. He was arrested, the works seized, and Science Ltd called on once more to determine the works' provenance. Once more, they pronounced them as fakes, citing signature differences among other signs.

 

The spin and spot paintings that Science Ltd say are fakes. Images courtesy of the New York County DA's Office
The spin and spot paintings that Science Ltd say are fakes. Images courtesy of the New York County DA's Office

Sutherland's lawyer has told The New York Times that he plans to fight the charges. Some far more sound advice as to how one should behave within the art market, can be found in our new book, Collecting Art for Love, Money and More.


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