AN artist is being sued for £4 million after denying that he gave a prison officer a painting while in jail for possession of LSD.
Canadian Bob Fletcher has claimed that the landscape painting he owns is the work of Peter Doig, the celebrated Edinburgh-born artist whose work sells for millions.
Mr Fletcher alleges that Doig gave him the painting in 1976 while he was being held at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre in Ontario as a teenager after being caught with acid.
Doig argues the acrylic landscape was in fact painted by another Scot called Peter Doige, who once spent time locked up in Thunder Bay for a drug offence.
Doig further claims he has never been in Thunder Bay and only began painting on canvas in 1979.
Mr Fletcher’s lawsuit alleges Doig’s denial has potentially cost him millions, because auctioneers have refused to put the painting up for sale.
The case is set to play out in a Chicago courtroom next month where Mr Fletcher is seeking at least £3.8m in damages and a declaration that the painting is by Doig.
The disputed painting is a 86cm by 105cm canvas that depicts a desert scene with a pond. It is signed “Pete Doige 76”.
Mr Fletcher, 62, said he bought the painting from Doig for £75 to help him out and only realised five years ago that he may own the work of a famous artist when a friend noticed the canvas.
He said: “My friend said, ‘Bob, that guy’s a real famous artist’.
“He starts showing some videos of Doig and I said, ‘I do recognise him’ – even though we didn’t have the long hair we had back then.
“All we wanted to do is find out if it’s his or not so we could go ahead and sell this painting.
“We are so convinced that we have the right person that we’re going to go ahead with this.”
Doig and Doige were both born in the 1950s in Scotland and Doig’s family emigrated to Canada when he was a child. Doig has admitted to having dabbled in LSD as a teen.
Doig has called the lawsuit a “scam” and when shown a photograph of the canvas said: “Nice painting. Not by me.”
The 57-year-old, who splits his time between Trinidad and London, denies ever being in Thunder Bay or in a prison.
He said: “This case is a scam, and I’m being forced to jump through hoops to prove my whereabouts over 40 years ago. If I had painted that painting when I was 16, I would admit it.”
In addition, Doige’s sister, Marilyn Bovard, says she believes her brother, who died in Edmonton in February 2012, was the painter.
But Mr Fletcher’s lawyer, William Zieske, said: “Every portion of Mr Doig’s life is documented in written official documents – from his teen years to his present day – except for an 18-month window that comprises almost all of 1976 and the first half of 1977.”