Case 1:16-cv-01386-WHP Document 1 Filed 02/23/16 Page 1 of 8

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
----------------------------------------------------------X
SANDRAN WARAN,
Plaintiff,

CASE NO.:
COMPLAINT

- against CHRISTIE’S INC.,
Defendant.
----------------------------------------------------------X

Plaintiff, Sandran Waran, by his attorneys, Oved & Oved LLP, complaining of the
Defendant Christie’s Inc.’s (“Defendant” or “Christie’s”), alleges, upon information and belief,
as follows:
SUMMARY OF ACTION
1.

This lawsuit seeks monetary damages stemming from the fraud that Christie’s

perpetrated on Plaintiff when Christie’s guaranteed the authenticity and provenance of certain
pieces of East Indian art, and thereby induced Plaintiff to purchase same in 2005 and 2007, and
then subsequently refused to resell same for Plaintiff claiming that the authenticity and
provenance of those same pieces could not be guaranteed by Christie’s.1
PARTIES
2.

Plaintiff is a New Jersey resident with an address at 8 Reed Road, Morristown,

New Jersey 07960.
3.

Defendant is a corporation duly organized and existing under and pursuant to the

laws of the State of New York with a principal place of business at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New
York, New York 10020.
1

Given the pervasive nature of Christie’s fraudulent conduct and the likely existence of other similarly situated
individuals, Plaintiff reserves his right to amend this Complaint to include other similarly situated Plaintiffs and
certify a class.

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4.

At all times relevant hereto, Christie’s operated one of the world’s largest and

best-known auction houses.
5.

At all times relevant hereto, Christie’s conducted business through its duly

authorized agents, representatives, officers, directors, shareholders, managers, employees,
servants and workmen, all of whom acted within the scope of their employment, agency and/or
authority.
JURISDICTION & VENUE
6.

This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §

1332 because Plaintiff and Defendant are citizens of different states and the amount in
controversy exceeds the statutory threshold of Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars ($75,000.00),
exclusive of interest and costs.
7.

Venue is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and (c), because

Defendant has been and continues to provide services to customers residing in the district.
8.

The cause of action set forth in this Complaint arises from Defendant’s

transaction of business in this District, including but not limited to advertising, promotion,
marketing, auctioning and sale of goods to residents of this District.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A.

Plaintiff Acquires the Blackstone Stele From Christie's
9.

In or about March 2005, Christie’s published an auction catalog entitled “Indian

and Southeast Asian Art, Including Modern and Contemporary Indian Art” (the “March 2005
Catalog”).
10.

Pursuant to the Conditions of Sale contained in the March 2005 Catalog,

Christie’s warranted, without qualification, the authorship, authenticity and provenance of all
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works contained in the March 2005 Catalog of any art described in headings “printed in UPPER
CASE TYPE.”
11.

In or about March 2005, Plaintiff obtained a copy of the March 2005 Catalog.

12.

Included in the March 2005 Catalog was a piece (the “Blackstone Stele”) that

bore the following UPPER CASE TYPE heading:
PROPERTY OF A BOSTON COLLECTION
[Lot] 57
A BLACKSTONE STELE OF VISHNU ON GARUDA
NORTHEASTERN INDIA, PALA PERIOD, 12TH CENTURY
*

*

*

PROVENANCE:
Acquired in 1993

13.

Thus, pursuant to Christie’s’ March 2005 Catalog and its Conditions of Sale,

Christie’s represented that the Blackstone Stele was, without qualification, an authentic piece
from Northeastern India, from the Pala Period, 12th Century, and that its provenance was that it
was acquired by a Boston Collection in 1993.
14.

Plaintiff reasonably relied upon Christie’s’ unqualified representations regarding

the Blackstone Stele’s authenticity and provenance as well as Christie’s renowned reputation for
quality, authenticity and provenance, and placed the winning bid on the Blackstone Stele: Forty
Thousand Seven Hundred Four Dollars ($40,704.00) (including sales tax).
15.

Plaintiff promptly thereafter paid the sum of Thirty-Eight Thousand Forty

Thousand Seven Hundred Four Dollars ($40,704.00) to Christie’s and took possession of the
Blackstone Stele, which Plaintiff has owned without interruption to this day.
16.

But for Christie’s’ representations regarding authenticity and provenance,

Plaintiff would not have purchased the Blackstone Stele.

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B.

Plaintiff Acquired the Sandstone Figure From Christie’s
17.

In or about March 2007, Christie’s published another auction catalog entitled

“Indian and Southeast Asian Art, Including Modern and Contemporary Indian Art” (the “March
2007 Catalog”).
18.

Pursuant to the Conditions of Sale contained in the March 2007 Catalog,

Christie’s warranted, without qualification, the authorship, authenticity and provenance of all
works contained in the March 2007 Catalog of any art described in headings “printed in UPPER
CASE TYPE.”
19.

The March 2007 Catalog also explained that when the dates, period or style of a

piece (its “attributes”) are contained below the “heading of the description” in “small capital
letters” then Christie’s “is of the opinion [that] the piece is of the date or period [listed].”
20.

In or about March 2007, Plaintiff obtained a copy of the March 2007 Catalog.

21.

Included in the March 2007 Catalog was a piece (the “Sandstone Figure”) that

bore the following UPPER CASE TYPE heading and the following attributes in small capital
letters:
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE ENGLISH COLLECTION
[Lot] 270
A SANDSTONE FIGURE OF UMA
KHMER, ANGKOR PERIOD, BAPHUON STYLE, 11TH CENTURY
*

*

*

PROVENANCE:
English Collection, before 1975

22.

Thus, pursuant to Christie’s’ March 2007 Catalog and its Conditions of Sale,

Christie’s represented that the Sandstone Figure was, without qualification, an authentic piece
from Khmer, from the Angkor Period, in the Baphuon Style, 11th Century and that its

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provenance was that it was acquired by a private English collection before 1975.
23.

Plaintiff reasonably relied upon Christie’s’ unqualified representations regarding

the Sandstone Figure’s authenticity and provenance as well as Christie’s renowned reputation for
quality, authenticity and provenance, and placed the winning bid on the Sandstone Figure:
Seventy Thousand and Six Hundred-Twenty Dollars ($70,620.00) (including sales tax).
24.

Plaintiff promptly thereafter paid the sum of Seventy Thousand and Six Hundred-

Twenty Dollars ($70,620.00) to Christie’s and took possession of the Sandstone Figure which
Plaintiff has possessed without interruption to this day (collectively, the Blackstone Stele and the
Sandstone Figure are referred to herein as the “Pieces”).
25.

But for Christie’s’ representations regarding authenticity and provenance,

Plaintiff would not have purchased the Sandstone Figure.
C.

Plaintiff Contacts Christie’s to Re-Sell the Pieces
26.

In or around July 2013, Plaintiff contacted Christie’s requesting to resell the

Pieces to Christie’s.
27.

Christie’s promptly responded to Plaintiff and represented that it wanted to offer

Plaintiff’s artwork at its March 2014 auction.
28.

In furtherance thereof, Plaintiff delivered the pieces to Christie’s.

29.

From that time to February 24, 2014, in response to Plaintiff’s repeated and

consistent inquiries as to when the Pieces would be included in one of Christie’s’ auctions,
Christie’s repeatedly reassured Plaintiff that Christie’s intended to include the pieces in its
upcoming auction but that it was gathering necessary information regarding same and requested
Plaintiff’s patience.
30.

However, after years of inducing Plaintiff to keep the Pieces in Christie’s’

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possession and forestalling the instant litigation, on or about February 24, 2014, Christie’s
advised Plaintiff that it would be unable to include the Pieces in its upcoming auction because it
could not yet verify their provenance—the same provenance Christie’s had represented, without
qualification, was verified as authentic and guaranteed in the March 2005 Catalog and March
2007 Catalog, respectively.
31.

To further attempt to forestall this litigation—and surreptitiously run Plaintiff’s

statute of limitations, Christies represented that it “stand[s] behind” the works it sells [,] that “the
Christie’s’ name is synonymous with quality, authenticity and provenance” and repeatedly
assured Plaintiff that Christie’s was planning to re-offer the Pieces at later auctions.
32.

Indeed, in or about July 2014, Christie’s informed Plaintiff that “we are planning

to offer the [the Pieces] in September, [we] just need to finalize on Monday.” Plaintiff again
relied on Christie’s’ representations.
33.

Christie’s continued to induce Plaintiff to forestall this and permit the pieces to

remain in Christie’s possession by repeatedly representing that Christie’s was still conducting
research regarding the Pieces and that they would be included in upcoming actions.
34.

Finally, on June 4, 2015, Christie’s informed Plaintiff that it would not be able to

reoffer the Pieces because it could not verify their provenance—the same provenance Christie’s
had represented, without qualification, was verified as authentic and guaranteed in the March
2005 Catalog and March 2007 Catalog, respectively.
35.

Since that time, Plaintiff has repeatedly contacted Christie’s but Christie’s has

refused to answer his calls or respond to his correspondence.

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AS AND FOR A FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
(Fraud)
36.

Plaintiff repeats, reiterates, and re-alleges each and every allegation as contained

in the above paragraphs with the same force and effect as if fully set forth herein.
37.

In the March 2005 Catalog, Christie’s represented that the Blackstone Stele was,

without qualification, an authentic piece from Northeastern India, from the Pala Period, 12th
Century and that its provenance was that it was acquired by a Boston Collection in 1993.
38.

In the March 2007 Catalog, Christie’s represented that the Sandstone Figure was,

without qualification, an authentic piece from Khmer, from the Angkor Period, in the Baphuon
Style, 11th Century and that its provenance was that it was acquired by a private English
collection before 1975.
39.

Plaintiff reasonably relied upon these representations when Plaintiff purchased the

40.

But for Christie’s’ representations regarding authenticity and provenance,

Pieces.

Plaintiff would not have purchased the Pieces.
41.

However, it has recently been discovered from Christie’s itself that Christie’s’

representations were false when made and/or made with recklessness as to their truth or falsity
and intended to induce Plaintiff (and indeed the public) to purchase the Pieces.
42.

The conduct, acts and/or omissions of Christie’s, as set forth above, constitute

43.

Plaintiff has suffered damages as a result of the misrepresentation and fraud of

fraud.

Christie’s including, but not limited, to economic damages.
44.

By reason of the foregoing, Plaintiff was damaged and is entitled to a monetary

judgment against Christie’s in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than One Hundred
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