The online auction for a Maud Lewis painting found in a charity thrift shop in New Hamburg, Ont. has been restarted because of the "actions of an unqualified bidder," according to the group behind the auction.
The painting, Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, Bay View, Nova Scotia, made headlines earlier this spring when thrift shop volunteers found it and realized it was from the celebrated Nova Scotia folk artist.
Bidding had reached $125,208 in the week after the painting went up for auction, which caused the Mennonite Central Committee Ontario to take a closer look. Lewis's paintings more often sell for between $6,000 and $20,000.
"We spent a fair bit of time doing some checking and it turned out, quite frankly, that someone had not been acting in good faith with their bidding," said Rick Cober Bauman, the MCCO executive director.
"And we did as much as we could to try to give the bidder a chance to correct that and there wasn't anything forthcoming, so we decided that, to be fair to everyone, because someone had entered and really influenced the auction in bad faith, that we needed to start over."
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Cober Bauman said the MCCO is not sure why the bids increased so quickly, and the group isn't pursing any legal action.
"Many people, just in a few hours, have expressed their sympathy or disappointment that somebody would do that."
Now, the MCCO is asking bidders to qualify in advance before they are given permission to bid. That process includes providing a full name, address and phone number, the name and address of the bidder's bank, and a refundable $1,000 credit card deposit.
Unsuccessful bidders will have the deposit refunded to their cards within three days of the auction's close.
"We're disappointed that someone didn't enter this in good faith, but we've think we've taken a good step now to remedy that," Cober Bauman said. Some people have already contacted the MCCO to pre-register to bid.
The new bidding process has begun and will continue until May 19 at 9:00 p.m.