Kevin Sutherland, the Florida pastor on trial for attempting to sell counterfeit Damien Hirst works, has been convicted in New York State Supreme Court. Jurors found Sutherland guilty of attempted grand larceny in the second degree.
Sutherland’s saga, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, began in December 2012, when he attempted to consign to Sotheby’s an alleged Hirst spin painting. Called on to authenticate the work, the artist’s studio in London, Science Ltd., determined that it was fake and contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The New York City Police Department then set up a sale between an undercover detective and Sutherland, who, after his consignment was rejected by Sotheby’s, offered to part with two Hirst spin paintings and three limited-edition spot prints for a total of $185,000. During the negotiations, Sutherland twice assured the detective that the artworks were authentic. On February 7, 2013, Sutherland and the detective met to close the sale. Once Sutherland accepted the cash payment, he was arrested. Science Ltd. went on to determine that all of the alleged Hirsts were fake.
The press release from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office announcing the conviction describes Hirst’s spin and spot prints as “worth tens of thousands of dollars.” One spin painting from 2008 sold for £16,250 (~$27,000) at Bonham’s New Bond Street in October 2012. According to an October 2013 article in The Independent, “Hirst’s auction prices began to slump after his Beautiful Inside My Head Forever [solo] sale at Sotheby’s in September 2008.”
“New York’s culture and identity is significantly shaped by artists, who are an important part of our city’s economy,” said District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. in the press release announcing the conviction. “Because the art industry is largely unregulated, it is particularly important to hold accountable those who fraudulently deal artwork and to preserve the integrity of this market.”
Hyperallergic reached out to Sotheby’s regarding the conviction, but the auction house declined to comment.