Today in art world tabloid scandals: prominent dealer Mary Boone has filed a motion in the New York State Supreme Court accusing actor Alec Baldwin of committing fraud by not paying sales tax on a painting he bought from her six years ago, the New York Times reports.
It’s the latest twist in a strange ongoing feud between Baldwin and Boone over this particular painting, titled “Sea and Mirror,” by the artist Ross Bleckner. A month ago, Baldwin sued Boone, alleging that the painting she’d sold him for $190,000 was not the original “Sea and Mirror” he’d requested, but a copy. What aroused his suspicions? The painting was “brighter” than the 1996 version he’d seen in a Sotheby’s catalogue and drooled over years before. Also, it smelled too new. He suspected that, after the collector who owned the original painting refused to sell it, Boone had schemed with Bleckner, convincing him to complete an unfinished work from the same series and pass it off as the true “Sea and Mirror.”
But Boone, dubbed the “New Queen of the Art Scene” by New York magazine in 1982, claims Baldwin knew all along that the painting he bought was a newer version. In this most recent filing, she requests that his lawsuit be dismissed, arguing that he waited too long to take legal action.
Since no Alec Baldwin news story is complete without dramatic insults, the actor also called Boone “an armadillo.” “I’m sure you have been blasting your way out of corners like this on more than one occasion,” wrote the notoriously temperamental Baldwin in an email. In her reply, Boone denied being an armadillo — “I am not an Armadillo however,” she wrote — but did not deny that the painting she’d sold him wasn’t the version he’d requested.
Now Boone is playing offense, saying that Baldwin avoided paying nearly $17,000 in state sales tax on the painting by having it shipped to his California residence immediately after the purchase. In court documents, Ted Poretz, Boone’s lawyer, lays out her accusations:
As the documentary evidence makes clear, Baldwin sought relief from the New York state and city sales taxes — $16,625 — by causing the painting to be shipped momentarily to his California residence, with the instruction that the painting remain in California only long enough for his assistant to sign for it, after which it was to make an immediate u-turn so that it could be installed in Baldwin’s New York City apartment.
In a sworn affidavit, Boone said, “I respectfully submit that Baldwin cannot connive an elaborate scheme to evade sales taxes and yet claim that there are any circumstances under which he is entitled to punitive or exemplary damages in connection with the same transaction.”
Baldwin’s lawyer, John Hueston, claims that Boone’s accusation is an attempt to divert attention away from her own alleged fraud. “That is just a blatant diversionary tactic and an attempt to distract from the fraud she is not denying,” Mr. Hueston told the New York Times. “We will not dignify that allegation with a response.”
We’ll have to wait and see which armadillo blasts its way out of its corner first.