Florida Pastor Indicted in Scheme to Sell Fake Damien Hirst Paintings

It may be difficult to make a living as an artist in New York, but it’s even harder to survive as an art thief. On Thursday, Florida pastor and art dealer Kevin Sutherland, 45, was indicted for attempting to sell counterfeit Damien Hirst “spin” and “spot” paintings. New York police arrested Sutherland on February 1 after an undercover detective posing as a collector paid him $185,000 in exchange for the fake artworks.

The sting operation was made possible by Hirst’s own company, Science Ltd., which contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s office about a suspicious painting Sutherland offered to Sotheby’s in December. (The auction house had submitted the painting to Science Ltd. for authentication.) “We were certain it was not a genuine Hirst,” Jude Tyrrell, Science Ltd’s director, told ARTINFO, adding that the company sent a representative to New York to testify to that effect.

Sutherland’s indictment is the latest in a series of art-related crime busts in New York. “Over just the last three years, my Office has prosecuted the thefts of valuable paintings, including pieces by Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, and Fernand Leger, as well as a multi-million dollar art fraud scheme,” Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance said in a statement. “New York’s art scene has long been an important part of the city’s culture and economy, and my Office will continue to rigorously protect the integrity of our city’s art market.”

Julia Halperin

(Image courtesy Manhattan D.A.’s office)