Collectors sue over fake Keith Harring paintings

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Collectors sue over fake Keith Harring paintings
General views of the Keith Haring Exhibition during a press preview at Musee d'Art Moderne on April 18, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
New York artist Keith Haring decorates the Berlin Wall with 100 meters of graffiti. The artist, famous for his New York subway paintings, begins his work near West Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie on Oct. 23, 1986. (AP Photo/Rainer Klostermeier)
A woman looks at a painting by US artist Keith Haring made in 1984 used as a stage curtain for French choreographer Roland Petit's ballet 'Mariage du ciel et de l'enfer' (Halfway to Heaven and Hell) on display for the first time in 24 years at the Chanot park in Marseille on September 25, 2008. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 18: General views of the Keith Haring Exhibition during a press preview at Musee d'Art Moderne on April 18, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
Keith Haring with fellow Pop Artist Andy Warhol
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 18: General views of the Keith Haring Exhibition during a press preview at Musee d'Art Moderne on April 18, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
Socialist candidate to the municipal elections in Paris Anne Hidalgo looks at Tokyo Pop Shop (Container) (1988) an artwork by US artist Keith Haring (Fondation, NY) on April 27, 2013 at the '104' artistic institution in Paris.  JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 18: General views of the Keith Haring Exhibition during a press preview at Musee d'Art Moderne on April 18, 2013 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 17, 2013 shows a spectator looking at an untitled art creation by US artist Keith Haring at the Musee d'Art Moderne (Modern Art Museum), in Paris, two days before the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Haring's work, 23 years after his death. The exhibition will last from April 19 to August 18.FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images
A detail of the newly restored 1987 mural titled "We The Youth" by artist Keith Haring is seen Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Philadelphia. The city's Mural Arts Program has worked for months to restore the only collaborative public mural by Haring that is still intact and at its original site. Haring died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 31. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A painting by American Pop Artist Keith Haring
NEW YORK CITY - Artist Keith Haring attends Andy Warhol's Memorial Service Luncheon on April 1, 1987 at the former Diamond Horseshoe Room, Hotel Paramount in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
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(Reuters) - Several collectors filed a $40 million lawsuit on Friday against the foundation of late New York City painter Keith Haring, which has publicly stated roughly 80 works owned by the dealers are fakes.

The collectors said they purchased the artwork from friends of Haring, including a New York City disc jockey.

The foundation, however, rejected the artworks' authenticity in 2007 and refused to review additional evidence provided later by the collectors before stating they were fakes, according to the lawsuit in Manhattan district court.

Representatives for the Keith Haring Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Brian Kerr, lawyer for the collectors, refused to comment on the litigation.

Haring, whose work focused on New York City's 1980s street culture, often with political or social messages, died in 1990. Authenticated works by the artist can fetch between $500,000 and $1 million each.

Roughly 80 works said to be produced by Haring were put on show in Miami in March 2013. Two days later, the foundation filed a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit to shut the exhibition down, alleging the works were counterfeits.

Shortly afterward, the show's promoter agreed to remove the works from the exhibit and the collectors failed to sell any of the works, court documents said. Sales at the Miami show would have fetched at least $40 million, the complaint said.

The collectors said in the lawsuit that Haring works were effectively unsalable in major auction houses if they were not first certified by the foundation.

The collectors said the foundation was motivated to keep the number of authenticated Haring works low in order to increase the value of the previously certified works in their possession.

The case is Bilinski et al v. The Keith Haring Foundation Inc et al, U.S. District Court for Southern New York, No. 14-cv-1085.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Ted Botha and Lisa Shumaker)

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