Ron Meyer Sues Claiming Forged Mark Rothko Painting Cost Him $10 Million

The CAA co-founder and Universal Studios vice chairman in 2001 paid $900,000 for a painting that he was told had been created and signed by the famous artist.
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Ron Meyer

Universal Studios vice chairman Ron Meyer has filed a $10 million lawsuit against two art dealers who he says duped him into buying a forged painting nearly two decades ago.

Art dealer Jamie Frankfort in 2001 introduced Meyer to Susan Seidel and presented her as "a reliable and expert art dealer who had for sale a painting by Mark Rothko," according to the complaint. The film exec and CAA co-founder admits his experience in the art world was lacking compared to their purported expertise and says they knew he wouldn't be able to distinguish between an authentic Rothko and a forgery.

Meyer says Seidel not only misrepresented to him that the work was a Rothko, but also that it had been signed by the artist and acquired directly from him by the seller's family and that it had been accepted into a catalog of Rothko's works that was then being compiled.

Not knowing any of this, Meyer paid $900,000 for the painting, plus a $45,000 commission to Seidel. The "Rothko" was delivered to his home in March 2001 and it has hung there ever since, according to the complaint.

"In January 2019, plaintiff learned for the first time that, contrary to the representations of Seidel, known to and approved by Frankfort, the Painting is not, in any part, the work of Rothko, but is a total forgery, that it has essentially no value at all, that it had never been accepted for inclusion in the Rothko Catalogue Raisonné and that it had never been owned, possessed, signed or even seen by Rothko or acquired from Rothko by the seller or the seller’s family or anyone else," writes attorney Bertram Fields in the complaint. "Had defendants’ representations been true, as plaintiff reasonably believed until January 2019, the present value of the Painting would be at least $10 million. Since the Painting is not genuine, it has virtually no value and never will."

Meyer is suing for fraud and breach of warranty and seeking $10 million in damages. Or, in the event that defendants didn't know it was fake and were merely negligent, he is alternatively pursuing a claim for rescission and wants his $945,000 back. Read his full complaint below.