Gawker, Others Sued For Writing About New Yorker Art Con Story

The New Yorker

A strange libel lawsuit that reads like a pulp version of the The Da Vinci Code just became a bit stranger — the controversial art world figure who is suing the New Yorker is now taking aim at other media outlets that repeated the venerable magazine’s allegations.

The case involves a Canadian man, Peter Paul Biro, who became famous for using fingerprint technology to allegedly revealed undiscovered works by the likes of Jackson Pollack and Leonardo Da Vinci. Biro sued the New Yorker this summer over a 2010 story that cast doubt on the “man who keeps finding famous fingerprints on uncelebrated works of art.”

Last week, Biro expanded his defamation complaint to include a slew of new defendants. They include Gizmodo (a site owned by Gawker), Business Insider and the International Council of Museums. Biro says the new defendants defamed him by writing articles based on the New Yorker story and now he wants money from everyone involved for the “enormous damage” to his reputation, business and health.

The original story, by David Grann, is a meticulous account that describes Biro’s “scientific” authentication technique and how it vaulted him into the elite of the art world. But it also provides a very unflattering account of the traits and behaviors that that have resulted in Biro leaving a decades-long trail of civil lawsuits and outraged acquaintances (one businesswoman says he is “a classic con man”).

New Yorker editor David Remnick responded to Biro’s libel charges by telling AdWeek in July that the case had no merit and that, “We stand with David Grann and behind the story.”

As for the lawsuit, Biro’s chances seem about as good as finding a Botticelli at a yard sale. The law of defamation means that he will have to show that the New Yorker was malicious or, at a minimum, grossly irresponsible in its reporting.

As for Gawker and the other defendants, Biro must show they were at least grossly irresponsible in using the New Yorker magazine as a source (if the story is untrue in the first place, that is).

Biro has just filed a reply to the New Yorker’s request to throw out the case, so this could drag on for a while longer. In the meantime, readers can still enjoy Gizmodo’s account of Biro, titled “Is This Man the Art World’s High-Tech Hero or Villain?” and the original article.

via Courthouse News

Biro revised suit against Gawker et al
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