Unauthenticated Lyonel Feininger painting to auction on January 1

A New Year's Day auction is fraught with controversy over the sale of a painting that may or may not be by German-American expressionist Lyonel Feininger, reports Arizona's the Republic newspaper.

The sale will take place at J Levine Auction & Appraisal in Phoenix, Arizona.

Feininger (1871-1956) was one of the earliest artists to become involved with the Bauhaus movement in his native Germany. He fled in 1936 after the Nazis took power and his work was featured in the infamous "Degenerate Art" exhibition.

Lyonel Feininger painting controversy
The painting is billed in the catalogue as a 'controversial Lionel Feininger painting'

The auction house remains unsure of whether the painting is genuine - leading to the work being given an estimate of $10,000-10m.

Beginning in March 2013, Josh Levine, CEO of J Levine Auction & Appraisal, contacted expert Achim Moeller, head of the Lyonel Feininger Project, who declined to value the painting - claiming he had already issued a statement to the consignor.

As the year progressed it was revealed that the letter Moeller claimed to have sent was in possession of Christie's in New York, and simply stated that he did not believe the painting to be authentic but that he reserved the right to change this opinion.

Levine later discovered that Moeller was being sued for perjury by a French museum after making the same statement, and then authenticating the work three years after the sale.

The Arizona-based auction house has since been visited by the FBI, who reported they had received a tip off over the sale of a forged painting - although they were satisfied with Levine's explanation and have not returned.

Bidding will start at $1m and, although the painting is unauthenticated, the buyer will receive all of Levine's research.

If the painting turns out to be a real Feininger, the buyer could find themselves sat on a goldmine. His auction record was set at $23.2m at Sotheby's New York in 2007.

This story highlights the importance of provenance in the collectibles business.

We base our reputation on the authenticity of all our items, so much so that we offer a lifetime money-back guarantee. You can view all our stock for sale here.

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