The bitter dispute between Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin and New York dealer Mary Boone has ended. The actor received a seven-figure settlement from Boone over a $190,000 Ross Bleckner painting he bought in 2010 that turned out to be a different painting than the one she promised to deliver. The agreement, reached last month and finalized on Friday, concludes a civil fraud case that was scheduled to head to trial next year.
Although settlements of this kind are often confidential, Baldwin went into surprising detail with the New Yorker, which recounts the saga and its resolution in next week’s print edition. (The article went online this morning.) Baldwin told the magazine he received a seven-figure sum, half of which he plans to donate to the fund to rebuild the Sag Harbor Cinema in the Hamptons.
As part of the settlement, Baldwin was also allowed to keep the work he was duped into buying—and commission another new work by Bleckner. “Maybe I’ll have Ross paint a picture of the seven-figure check that Mary paid me to settle,” Baldwin told the New Yorker. He said he plans to tour the fake work as part of a lecture series on art fraud.
A longtime fan of Bleckner, Baldwin had coveted the large-scale painting Sea and Mirror (1996) since the late ’90s, when he first spotted it on an exhibition flyer. He tried to buy the work at Sotheby’s in 2007, but was outbid. Three years later, Boone agreed to find the work and negotiate a sale on his behalf. Baldwin bought it—or, so he thought—for $190,000.
When the work arrived, the actor suspected something was amiss. It was signed, dated, and stamped with the inventory number of the 1996 work he loved, but the colors were different than he remembered.
“They were bright, like M&M’s,” he told the New Yorker. “The brushstrokes were less feathery, and the paint smelled, well, fresh.” Boone told him that the previous owner was a heavy smoker and Bleckner had cleaned the painting as a courtesy.
Baldwin ultimately had the painting tested by a Sotheby’s expert and concluded that the work he owned was not, in fact, the 1996 painting he thought he had bought. Bleckner later admitted the canvas was a copy. “I’m so sorry about this,” the artist wrote in an email to Baldwin, according to the New Yorker.
Boone offered the actor a full refund plus interest, but Baldwin decided to press civil charges, seeking to make as much noise as possible about Boone’s blunder.
The dealer’s lawyer Ted Poretz asked the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that it fell outside the statute of limitations. But a judge ruled in August that the suit could proceed to trial.
According to the New Yorker, a settlement became more appealing for Boone’s side after Baldwin’s lawyers obtained damaging emails that included discussions of how to prematurely age the painting and ensure that the paint was dry.
Reached by artnet News, Boone’s lawyer declined to comment on the settlement.