Fashion Exec Sues Knoedler

Michael Hammer, chairman of New York’s defunct Knoedler Gallery and grandson of industrialist Armand Hammer, is being sued by a fashion executive and his wife over a fake Mark Rothko.

Earlier this year, art collectors of Art Kabinett social network learned about numerous fakes sold by the venerable gallery.

Hammer “reaped tens of millions of dollars” “and took no steps to stop the fraud,” Domenico De Sole, chairman of Tom Ford International, and Eleanore De Sole said in their complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.

Hammer and Glafira Rosales, a dealer in Sands Point on New York’s Long Island who consigned artworks to Knoedler, were among four new defendants in the complaint.

Domenico de Sole, chairman of Tom Ford International. The fashion executive and his wife Eleanore sued Michael Hammer, son of industrialist, Armand Hammer

The lawsuit was originally filed on March 28 and amended last week. It’s one of three against Knoedler and its former director, Ann Freedman, by collectors claiming the gallery sold counterfeits. The plaintiffs are seeking combined damages of more than $70 million.

‘Fake’ Pollock

The Upper East Side gallery -- founded in 1846 -- shut its doors on Nov. 39, 2011, a day after it received a consultant’s report concluding that a $17 million Jackson Pollock it sold was a fake.

Samples of paint recovered from the painting weren’t available until years after Pollock died, according to a suit filed by the buyer, hedge-fund executive Pierre Lagrange.

Knoedler sold “Untitled, 1956” for $8.3 million in December 2004 to the De Soles, the Hilton Head, South Carolina- based couple said in their complaint.

Freedman told them an unnamed Swiss collector bought it directly from Rothko, and because the collector died, Knoedler was selling on behalf of his son, according to the complaint.

‘Inconsistent’ Technique

After the gallery closed, the De Soles’ lawyers hired a forensic conservator to investigate the work’s authenticity. The report found that its marks and composition were “inconsistent with Rothko’s technique."

Freedman testified in December at a hearing in the on-going Lagrange suit that Rosales had said her works were from a private collector who wished to remain anonymous.

Lost Money

Knoedler was purchased by Armand Hammer, the former chief executive of Occidental Petroleum Corp. in 1971.

The gallery lost almost $4 million in 2009 and 2010, and its closing was under consideration for about a year, Michael Hammer said in a December declaration filed in the Lagrange case.

His son Armie is an actor who played both Winklevoss twins in the 2010 movie “The Social Network,” about Facebook Inc.

Another Complaint

Michael Hammer is among the defendants in a July 2012 suit filed by John Howard, chief executive of Irving Place Capital, concerning an artwork for which Howard paid $4 million.

Freedman and Knoedler said it was by Willem de Kooning, the complaint said.
“The work is a forgery,” Howard said in his complaint.

The new case is De Sole v. Knoedler Gallery, 12-cv-2313, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, (Manhattan).

The others are: Lagrange v. Knoedler Gallery LLC, 11-CIV-8757, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), and Howard v. Freedman, 12-cv-05263, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).