£600,000 payout over Lalique glass doctored by fakers


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The Independent Online

A CASE where a buyer paid £500,000 for what turned out to be doctored art deco glass could have repercussions for collectors.

The value of supposedly rare purple Lalique glass objects has already fallen and is likely to drop further after a case in the High Court yesterday.

A motor-racing tycoon, Mansour Ojjeh, was awarded £460,000 in damages - plus £150,000 legal costs - after the court decided that his collection of purple Lalique car mascots had been artificially coloured long after they were made.

Mr Ojjeh, who part-owns the McLaren Formula One racing team, paid £60,000 each for the 17 deep purple sculptures made by Rene Lalique. He had given his clear crystal glass Lalique mascots in exchange. The court heard how he had been told that the colour made the sculptures more rare and added to their value.

But Mr Justice Buckley ruled yesterday that the colour had been added by a radiation process, possibly in the last 20 years, although he acknowledged that the gallery owner who sold them would not have known this. His judgment was supported by evidence from art experts, who said Lalique would never have coloured the glass artefacts as it would have been "too vulgar".

The clear glass car mascots, which now sell for about £24,000, were made in France during the Twenties and Thirties. Judge Buckley said: "The dark purple colour does indeed destroy the sense of grace, movement and speed in some of these pieces. Based on all the material before me, I cannot envisage Rene Lalique using this colour to enhance or even as a variation for his mascots."

The case was brought against gallery owner, Mark Waller, a Lalique glass expert, and his company Galerie Moderne, of Belgravia, London, for negligence and breach of contract. The judge found he had not been negligent as he was not expected to be an expert in radiation colouring. However, by giving his personal assurance of authenticity, he had been in breach of contract.

After the hearing in London, Michael Sears, solicitor for Mr Ojjeh, said the purple mascots had been fetching about £121,000 before the irradiation process was discovered. They now barely reach £6,000 each.

Mr Waller was ordered to pay £360,402 damages and Galerie Moderne an additional £100,000 damages. They were also ordered to pay Mr Ojjeh's costs of £150,000. The judge said "no case in fraud or reckless misrepresentation had been pursued against him [Mr Waller]". But he denied Mr Waller the protection of the limited companies act to pay costs and damages.