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Charcoal drawing remains in jail

One one side of the Kitsap County Superior Court room stood Peter Teekamp, an eccentric artist with a French accent, wearing faded blue-jeans and a brown courderoy jacket.

On the other side of the room stood Mel Sablan, a dark-haired, Guamanian man wearing baggy slacks and a button-up T-shirt.

Both men looked as out of place in a courtroom as a toddler at a prom, yet that is where they have been spending a lot of time lately. The two are at odds over the legal ownership of a charcoal drawing that may or may not be an original Paul Gauguin.

During the court appearance on Friday, Jan. 30, the two stood in front of Superior Court Judge M. Karlynn Haberly, both sides eager to have a say: Teekamp argued that he bought the drawing outright and it should be his. Sablan’s attorneys wanted the drawing to stay where it was — impounded by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department — or to be placed in a storage facility with a non-biased third-party to watch over it.

The drawing, as of press time, is still impounded. On Friday, Jan. 30, Haberly gave Sablan until Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to post $5,000 bail to get the drawing. As of press time Thursday afternoon, bail had not been paid. Another court hearing was to be held Friday.

In mid-December, Teekamp was at Sablan’s restaurant, Chamorro’s on Fourth Street, when he noticed the sketch. In subsequent visits, Teekamp told Sablan he believed the sketch to be an original Gauguin, but cautioned it would take years to authenticate.

A few days later, on Dec. 17, Teekamp gave Sablan $5,000. Teekamp says he purchased the painting outright; Sablan has filed a lawsuit stating he was “coerced” into taking the money and that the money was only an investment, not a purchase.

Sablan’s attorney, D. Michael Tomkins of Seattle, argued that the drawing should be put into storage until the rightful owner could be determined.

Teekamp countered that the drawing is his because he bought it; its rightful place, he said, is on his wall.

“Their goal is to lock up the baby for 10 years. They told me that if that’s what it takes, that’s what they’ll do,” Teekamp said. “I bought a print to put above my bed. Now I’m in court. This is nuts.”

Gauguin is commonly regarded as a father of modern-day impressionists. He was often regarded as controversial for his paintings of nudes. He was unable to sale most of his artwork during his lifetime and died flat broke in 1903. At the time of his death, he was facing a prison term for defying authority. After Gauguin died, most of his paintings were sold at auctions or simply destroyed.

Teekamp has been studying Gauguin’s works for nearly four decades and is currently working on a book about Gauguin.

The drawing has been in Sablan’s family for at least four generations. His great-grandmother somehow acquired it and kept it rolled up in a protective sleeve. The drawing was passed down two more generations and given to Sablan to hang up in his restaurant, Chamarro’s.

Sablan and his attorneys have declined to comment.

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