Firedoglake Movie Night: “Final Offer,” Patrick Painter and James Earl Ray
From Star Wars swag and Civil War cannons to fossils and rare paintings, the expert art dealers on Discovery’s Final Offer have seen some unusual items. And when gallery owner Patrick Painter, our guest tonight, was presented with a valuable and unique piece of modern history, he did the right thing.
Expect the unexpected tonight when Patrick Painter discusses the Discovery channel program Final Offer, the current state of art and collecting in America, and James Earl Ray’s 1967 prison escape map which Painter bought on the show and donated to the King Library and Archives in Atlanta, part of the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change.
The premise of Final Offer is sort of like Let’s Make a Deal: A civilian is given an offer on his/her item by one of the art experts and must decide to take that one, or move on to the next dealer, with the hopes of a better pay day. There’s no turning back. Meanwhile, the dealers are using their own money and trying to get the best deal possible–and in Painter’s case to do the right thing.
When Painter was presented with James Earl Ray’s 1967 hand-drawn prison escape map, owned by a retired history teacher from Boston who bought it at auction for $2,500, he immediately purchased it, exclaiming
This belongs in a museum. I want to buy and donate it to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum.
Ray assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr on April 4, 1968, just over year to the day after escaping from the Missouri State Prison at Jefferson City in a bread truck.
Ray was captured in London, England a month after King’s assassination and sentenced to 99 years in prison; he pled guilty to avoid a jury trial. When Ray was captured, law enforcement had him draw the map of his escape from the Missouri prison in the hopes of preventing future escapes. The map was signed by Ray. Painter’s motives for buying the map were simple, driven not by profit, but by true patriotism and ethical beliefs: He knew where the map rightfully belonged, and didn’t want it to fall into the hands of white supremacists.
Patrick Painter began his career in art mentored by famed dealer Leo Casteli in New York. In 1991 he began Patrick Painter Editions, which printed very small runs of works by artists like John Baldessari, Harmony Korine and Ed Rucha; he opened his Santa Monica gallery, Patrick Painter, Inc. in 1996, successfully dealing in limited edition fine art prints.
Painter has tales to tell, art collecting wisdom to dispense, and reality TV insight–as well as having touched an important part of modern American history.