Barenaked Ladies musician awarded $60,000 in legal battle over painting

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A Toronto gallery must now pay tens of thousands of dollars to a Canadian musician who alleged he was sold a fake painting purported to be by the renowned Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau.

Ontario's top court says the trial judge made several errors in dismissing the legal action by Kevin Hearn, a member of the Barenaked Ladies, against the Maslak-McLeod Gallery.

Hearn purchased the painting, titled ``Spirit Energy of Mother Earth,'' in 2005 after receiving assurances that it was authentic and being promised a valid provenance statement attesting to that fact.

Court documents say Hearn launched his legal battle after an official at the Art Gallery of Ontario told him the painting was likely a fake, and the gallery's now-deceased owner refused to investigate the allegation or issue a refund.

At trial, an expert testified that while the painting drew on Morrisseau's ``visual vocabulary'' it did not fit in with his other works from that time and she believed it to be a forgery.

In a ruling released today, the court of appeal says the trial judge erred in rejecting the expert's testimony based on his own research, which was not entered as evidence.