Questions surface over mystery painting on eBay

SAN FRANCISCO - An amateur art collector whose online bid of $135,805 won him an abstract painting that resembles a work by Richard Diebenkorn may not have to pay up.

Kenneth Walton, a Sacramento lawyer who put the painting on the auction block, told The New York Times in today's editions that he won't allow the sale to go through if the artwork proves not to be painted by Diebenkorn.

Robert Keereweer, a software executive from Holland, placed the highest bid Monday for the orange and green work dated 1952. He said he had felt fairly confident that the painting was an original.

Works by Diebenkorn have sold for much more than Keereweer's bid. The record for a Diebenkorn at auction was $3.9 million, bid in 1998 at Sotheby's for a painting titled ''Horizon: Ocean Park.''

On the auction site eBay, Walton did not say who the painting was by, 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.

''I got this big abstract art painting at a garage sale in Berkeley ... back in my bachelor days,'' Walton wrote. ''Then I got married, and my wife has never let me keep it in the house. She says it looks like it was done by a nutcase.''

Walton told the Times and The Sacramento Bee that he had made up the story about his wife and child, and actually has neither. He insisted the painting was not invented.

Walton said he would have the work appraised before completing the sale. If it didn't turn out to be a Diebenkorn, the sale would not go through, Walton said.

''We will bring an expert opinion from the outside before finalizing the deal,'' Keereweer told the Times. ''Both he and I want to be sure. If it is authentic, then we will proceed - that's a fair deal.''


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