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RENO, Nev. (AP) - With Western American art long dismissed as unworthy of the fine art world, few collectors would have even cared 25 years ago if an early 20th century oil painting of cowboys or Indians on the frontier was authentic or not.

Now, the owner of galleries in New Mexico and New York City is suing one of the world's largest Western American art auctions, a Nevada gallery and others for defamation, accusing them of falsely claiming a $1 million painting he sold is a fake.

Gerald P. Peters of Santa Fe seeks unspecified damages from Peter Stremmel Galleries of Reno, the Coeur D'Alene Art Auction of Nevada and auction partner Mark Overby of Hayden, Idaho. The defendants' lawyers say the claims have no legal basis. They filed motions in federal court in Reno last week to dismiss the suit.

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