Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A forensic art inspector just filed a $2 million defamation suit against The New Yorker and writer David Grann over a 2010 article suggesting the inspector may have fabricated some fingerprints on famous paintings.The inspector, Peter Paul Biro, is best known for authenticating a Jackson Pollock painting for a 73-year-old former truck driver who picked up the piece at a thrift shop and decided it was worth $50 million after Biro matched a fingerprint on the painting to a fingerprint on a paint can in Jackson’s studio, according to Artinfo.
He was the subject of the 2006 documentary “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?” and was one of the inspectors asked to verify the origin of La Bella Principessa, a painting purchased for around $21,000 by a Swiss art collector at a Christie’s auction in 2008 that was later thought to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
But here’s where the story turns sordid.
Soon after Biro claimed La Bella Principessa was an authentic Leonardo, New Yorker reporter David Grann came out with an explosive, 16,000 word feature suggesting that Biro made up some of the fingerprints he’d claimed authenticated various paintings, including those on a Jackson Pollock canvas.
Working with a crime lab technician, Grann in his article “discovered several aspects that were inconsistent with normal fingerprints but matched the cast of a fingerprint he made from a paint can in Pollock’s studio,” according to Artinfo.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, Biro called the article a “false and defamatory screed … written and published with malice and an indifference to the standards of responsible journalism,” reports Courthouse News Service.
Now New Yorker editor David Remnick has stepped in to defend the magazine and Grann, telling AdWeek, “David Grann’s reporting on this story and everything else he does is painstaking in both its attention to the facts and tone. We stand with David Grann and behind the story and believe the suit has no merit.”
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