Fraud Flourished in 2014
New York City - It was a fruitful year for art scandals, perhaps because the art market grew a wapping 20%, with revenues exceeding $15.4 billion.
Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are not only interested in buying the best, but seek to buy works of art with an iron clad provenance.
The fraud involving the Knoedler Gallery in NY, came to a head in 2014 with the guilty plea by Glafira Rosales, 57. The art dealer, pictured here, brokered the sale of 63 counterfeit works sold by Knoedler over a twenty year period.
The case involved the sale of over $80 million dollars worth of fraudulent Abstract Expressionist work, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell.
The scam has led to several civil lawsuits, from the clients who purchased the paintings.
Rosales of Sands Point NY, pleaded guilty to nine charges including tax fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Rosales must forfeit $33 million from property investments used to launder the funds and pay restitution to the victims of the crime.
Her accomplice was Chinese master forger, 73-year-old Pei-Shen Qian, who returned to his native China.
Rosales was due to be sentenced in March but sentencing was postponed until September, because of a secret document which was filed with Manhattan federal court on March 14. As of the present, she has still yet to be sentenced.
Knoedler & Company, the oldest commercial gallery in New York found, closed its doors forever in 2012 after 165 years of business.
The former director of Knoedler, Ann Freedman, has denied any wrongdoing. She has now set up shop as an independent art dealer, hoping that some collector somewhere will believe what she has to say.
Oliver Wick of the Fondation Beyeler Museum in Switzerland, a curator who is considered to be one of the worlds authorities on Rothko, was caught up in the Knoedler scandal. Wick was paid $300,000 by the gallery to authenticate a work by Rothko. According to court documents, it is alleged that Wick "was aware of substantial evidence that the painting was a forgery."
Fakes were also in the headlines with the artists Basquiat, Warhol and Lichtenstein and despite the problem growing, we have seen the closing of three of the leading authentication boards, dealing with these artists' catalogues raisonné. This was due to the fear of costly litigation from angry collectors over the boards’ authentication decisions involving individual works.
Jasper Johns Defrauded
2014 also saw the American artist Jasper Johns embroiled in not one but two serious court battles.
The octogenarian testified against New York foundry owner, Brian Ramnarine, in a case where the bronze worker created unauthorized flag sculptures, made using the original moulds which he tried to sell for $11 million.
Ramnarine was found guilty on three counts of wire fraud in a Manhattan federal court and sentenced to two years in prison.
Johns was also immersed in another case this year where his loyal studio assistant, James Meyer, had stolen up to $6.5 million worth of drawings and paintings from the artist’s archives.
Most were sold through a New York gallery, who were convinced that they had been gifted to the assistant.
Last August, after more than a year of negotiation with the U.S. Attorney’s office, James Meyer tendered a guilty plea.
He agreed to pay back nearly $4 million, which amounted to $600,000 more than what he is said to have been payed from the sale of the artworks. A court date for 10 December was set for sentencing but still has not taken place.