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Collector sues University for $472,500 over authenticity of artwork

Photo Credit: Andreas Praefcke / Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Andreas Praefcke / Wikimedia Commons

New York art collector Vincent Fay is suing the University, alleging breach of contract in a million-dollar deal gone awry. 

A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York on Feb. 20 contends that the University backed out of a deal to purchase 17 works from Fay for the art museum, due to ‘“concerns’ over the authenticity of seven of the objects.”


The University did not offer comment at the time of this publication.

In Nov. 2018, Fay agreed to sell the collection to the University for $945,000. The money was to be paid in two installments of $472,500 each. 

According to the complaint, in December 2018, the University paid the first installment. Six months later, on June 21, 2019, Fay received a letter saying that the University would not complete the second transaction until the works were proven to be authentic. 

After allegedly realizing that the works were spurious, the University sent a rescission letter to Fay, asking for return of the first payment.

“Mr. Fay has been damaged by … demand for the return of the First Payment,” as well as the lack of second payment, according to the complaint.

The plaintiff’s counsel John Cahill referred to the seller’s warranty, which he said did not provide a blanket warranty based on the works’ objective authenticity. Instead, the warranty certified authenticity to the best of the seller’s knowledge. According to the plaintiff, the University would have to prove that Fay knew the works were inauthentic in order to void the contract. 


“Even if the works are called into question, … Princeton still has an obligation to pay Mr. Fay,” said Cahill in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. 

“It seems very clear. Princeton signed a contract, and they just haven’t paid the money. There’s no basis for Princeton to not have paid,” Cahill continued. 

The works in questions remain unknown to preserve their artistic integrity, according to Cahill. 

“The art should be valued for itself,” he said. “It shouldn’t be valued for the questions that have been raised about it, especially vague questions.”

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Fay has previously displayed works at the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museo del Barrio in New York City. 

According to Cahill, Fay’s collections have not received questions about their authenticity prior to this suit. 

“All the museums have been happy,” he said. 

The University Art Museum holds “over 100,000 works of art spanning from antiquity to the present,” according to its website. Ten of Fay’s works are currently part of the collection.

The University received a summons on Feb. 21. It must respond within a 21-day window, or else risk a default judgement.