Huge forgery scandal shakes New York art scene
By Manuela Imre Dec 13, 2011, 20:48 GMT
New York - The New York art world is in uproar after it became known that the FBI was investigating the authenticity of 16 works by such famous names as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
What started out at the end of November with the closing of the renowned Knoedler and Company Gallery is now mutating into one of the largest art forgery scandals ever.
The gallery, with a 165-year history, announced its closure on November 30, putting the highly respected New York art scene in a state of shock.
Two days later, London-based Belgian hedge fund manager Pierre Lagrange brought a lawsuit before a New York court against the gallery and its former president, Ann Freedman. He alleges that the Jackson Pollock named Untitled 1950 that he bought from Knoedler in 2007 for 17 million dollars is a forgery.
Auctioneers Christie's and Sotheby's had rejected the work by the US painter, and Lagrange demanded an investigation. According to The New York Times, tests showed that two of the paint colours used had been created only after Pollock's death in 1956.
Worse was to come. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating no less than 16 works by modern masters for their authenticity, according to the newspaper.
Should suspicions of forgery be confirmed, one of the biggest art scandals of all time will break over the US metropolis.
At the centre of the furore are the Knoedler Gallery itself, the widely respected art expert Freedman and a Mexican-born art dealer, Glafira Rosales.
The little-known art dealer from Long Island said she had gained exclusive access to an unidentified collector's stock of abstract expressionist work, ostensibly accumulated directly from the artists in the 1950s, The New York Times reported. The mystery collector was said to be a Mexican sugar trader who insisted on anonymity.
Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Motherwell are mentioned - names guaranteed to draw the attention of art lovers and possibly to awe them into not asking too many questions.
The New York Times said doubts had been circulating for some time, and that there had been isolated legal proceedings. New York art experts, in particular Freedman and Julian Weissmann, who traded in Motherwell works in the name of Knoedler, had been at the centre of several probes, the paper said.
The probes were not as wide-ranging as the current investigation. Some of them were settled by agreement, as in the case of a charge in relation to a Motherwell brought by the Dedalus Foundation.
Lawyers representing Freedman and Weissmann declined to comment when asked by dpa to provide details. But Rosales' legal representative Anastasios Sarikas said his client had been the 'victim' of a confused situation.
The galleries themselves were responsible for investigating art works, but they had been only too happy to deliver, he said, describing Rosales as a scapegoat. She had 'never intentionally or knowingly sold artwork she knew to be forged,' he told The New York Times.
Sarikas refused to reveal the identity of the mysterious collector who had channelled the works to his client.
Amid the confusion, the reasons for the abrupt closing of the Knoedler Gallery remain unclear. Gallery spokeswoman Kat Blomquist told dpa the move had been a 'business decision,' rather than in anticipation of a major scandal.
'It has nothing to do with Mr Lagrange or the forgery allegations,' she said, explaining that the decision had been under consideration for a long time.