Fake graffiti reach courts as forgeries on market increase

 A high court in Paris last month opened and adjourned a case brought by the graffiti artist John Perello, in which he alleged that Warren Levy, a little-known, occasional dealer, had sold, since 2010, around two dozen paintings falsely attributed to the artist. The 50-year-old, who goes by the name JonOne, started his career tagging the streets and subways of New York in the 1980s before moving to Paris in 1987. A prolific artist, Perello produces more than 200 paintings a year, describing himself as an Abstract Expressionist inspired by popular culture, Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock. As JonOne, he is one of the top names in the European graffiti scene.

The case is relatively small beer in financial terms: the paintings in question were sold by Levy to various collectors for a total of €33,750, according to Perello’s lawyers. But the case marks a turning point in the progress of graffiti from the fringes to the mainstream of contemporary art. Until quite recently, a graffiti artist was more likely to be seen in court as a defendant on vandalism charges than as a plaintiff in a forgery case.


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