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Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's Estate Suggests Some Works Up For Auction May Be Fakes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An auction of 40 items by the late New York City artist Jean-Michel Basquiat made headlines this week, but now his estate has sued claiming that some of the works may be fakes.

Christie's is handling the auction of more than 40 items supplied by Alexis Adler, Basquiat's former lover and roommate.

But his estate said Christie's failed to submit the catalog of works up for auction for a review of authenticity and the estate suspects Christie's "knows or has reason to believe that many of the catalog items are of questionable authenticity."

The reason, the lawsuit claimed, is that "an average person could see the printing on the catalog items was done by a number of different individuals" and "a casual observer of contemporary art would believe that the printing on many of the catalog items is clearly not that of the artist."

The lawsuit also said the auction catalog contains a copyright notice referencing Basquiat's estate, but claimed the notice is false because the estate denied Christie's request for permission to reproduce Basquiat's works in the catalog.

The lawsuit alleged false endorsement, false advertising, unfair competition and other claims, and sought unspecified damages and an injunction forbidding the use of Basquiat's name without the estate's permission.

The suit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Basquiat's creations were described as a famous fusion of multicultural symbols, distinctive graphic style and biting social commentary.

Basquiat died back in 1988 at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. Adler is now selling more than 40 works, including paintings, fashion and scribblings.

Basquiat started painting as a teenager, primarily as a graffiti artist. He became world-famous in his 20s, and dated Madonna for a short time in the early 1980s before she was famous.

Basquiat's works collectively have reportedly sold for more than $150 million.

The online Christie's auction for the Basquiat works began on Monday, and will continue through March 17. A live auction will be held Thursday.

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