The art dealer caught on video hosing water on a homeless woman in front of his San Francisco gallery is headed to court after being charged with misdemeanor battery. But this isn’t the first time he’s found himself entangled in the legal system.
A 2001 lawsuit accused Foster Gwin Gallery owner Collier Gwin of duping a pharmaceutical executive named Mark Levin into paying a fortune for fake antiques. The allegations unfurled into a yearslong legal battle that led to Gwin suing the appraiser who disputed the value of the furniture he sold.
Levin, who founded Third Rock Ventures, bought the furniture nearly two decades ago to decorate his Rhode Island retreat, which a news report from the time described as tony and expansive enough for a llama, African deer and peacocks to roam its grounds. Court records show the estate was one of Levin’s homes after he moved from San Francisco in 1992.
According to the report, Levin hired a California interior designer to travel the country in search of antiques to decorate the Rhode Island home. After spending millions of dollars on antiques found in that search, Levin hired a group of appraisers, who told him that many of the items were fake.
Then in 2001, he sued Gwin along with other antique dealers for $5 million in purchases he alleged were not authentic.
Gwin and his co-defendants disputed the claims, saying it was common to restore European antiques damaged by time and war, according to a 2004 report about the legal battle from the Boston Globe.
“This is a fairly incredulous situation,” Gwin said to the Globe. “I sold him 19 objects, and every one of them was a fake? Some of the other dealers sold him large quantities of objects, and all of those were fake, too? We’re prepared to stand behind the things we sold him.”
While Gwin, who was one of more than a dozen sued dealers, hired former director of European furniture for Christie’s for the suit, which turned into a battle over the authenticity of an 18th century armoire, a chandelier and a chaise lounge.
Gwin did admit issues with one item—a $44,000 chaise lounge. He offered a refund, but the Levins argued that Gwin misrepresented the nature of the item in an effort to sell the antiques.
The case settled out of court in 2005, according to Gwin’s attorney at the time, David Steiner.
The lawsuit Gwin filed in a bid to get $500,000 in damages from one of the appraisers, Marshall Fallwell, was dismissed.
Levin did not respond to a call for comment.
Neither did Gwin, who posted bail Thursday and is due in San Francisco Superior Court on Feb. 17 to be arraigned on the assault charge.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]