Header graphic for print
Art Law Recent Developments in Art Litigation and Art Finance

Federal Prosecutors Declare Indicted Art Dealer and Co-Conspirators Modern Masters of Forgery and Deceit

Posted in Litigation Issues

As reported in this recent article, in an alleged scheme that spanned for nearly 20 years involving a number of New York art galleries, a Spanish art dealer and his associates made in excess of $33 million by peddling forged modern art works through galleries to unsuspecting affluent buyers who paid in the millions of dollars for such works.  Authorities recently arrested the art dealer and his co-conspirator brother in Spain. 

According to the indictment unsealed in federal court last week, the brothers are confronted with conspiracy and money laundering charges.  The painter who is believed to have fled to China as the alleged scheme began to come apart is also indicted.  The indictment accuses the painter of making false statements to federal agents, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.  The painter is alleged to have received between several hundred and several thousand dollars for the forged paintings sold by the art dealers and galleries for millions of dollars.

Last week’s indictment represents the latest chapter in a case that has shaken up the modern art world involving a number of prominent New York galleries and affluent buyers.  It is alleged that the art galleries made in excess of $80 million off of the dozens of forged modern art works.

The alleged forged works that were represented to be paintings by famous artists included Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock,  Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Clyfford Still, as set forth in the indictment.

The indicted art dealer is said to have played a role in the art work forgeries before they were sold by subjecting the “many fake works to various processes, such as heating them, cooling them, and exposing them to the elements outdoors, in an attempt to make the fake works seem older than they actually were,” according to the indictment.

A key player in the alleged conspiracy is the art dealer’s girlfriend who plead guilty last year to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and filing false federal income tax returns, and is currently awaiting sentencing in federal court.