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EBay Gives Lawyer the Brushoff After Art Sale

The Sacramento man who offered the painting is barred from the auction site after the company finds he bid on the work himself, driving up the price.

May 11, 2000|COLLEEN VALLES | ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO — A lawyer who offered a painting on EBay that may or may not be an original by the late Richard Diebenkorn was barred from the online auction site Wednesday after EBay discovered that he had bid on the painting himself.

Kenneth Walton, 32, of Sacramento, told the Associated Press he was only trying to make a few hundred dollars with the painting. His online description made no mention of Diebenkorn, perhaps the most important abstract impressionist who worked in California.

But speculation that the orange and green abstract painting might be the real thing drove the bidding up to $135,805. The winning bid was made by Robert Keereweer, a software executive from the Netherlands.

Later Wednesday, EBay said it had reviewed the matter and discovered that Walton placed a bid of $4,500 on his own item, using a different user identity.

"This practice, known as shill bidding, can artificially drive up the price of an item and is strictly against EBay's posted policies," EBay said in a statement.

The company said it had voided the results of the sale, suspended the seller and released the high bidder from any further obligation.

Earlier Wednesday, Walton told the AP that the deal, "if it goes through would absolutely dwarf anything I've done" on EBay.

"It's going to go for a down payment on a house," he said in an interview at his downtown Sacramento law office.

Walton has sold 33 paintings on EBay since March 30.

He was threatened with a lawsuit last summer when he offered a work signed "P. Gray."

The buyer, Nebraska businessman Michael Luther, thought the painting was done by California artist Henry Percy Gray. He paid $7,600 for what ended up being an amateur's work with a recently added signature. Walton denied adding the signature.

In his latest EBay offering, Walton did not say who did the painting, only that he had kept it in his garage. A photograph of the painting showed the signature "RD," the way Diebenkorn typically signed his work.

Art experts said the photo displayed on EBay shows some of the abstract expressionism techniques that Diebenkorn used in 1952.

Diebenkorn, who died in 1993, spent his last 25 years painting mostly lines and geometric forms in the brilliant colors that had become his trademark.

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