Monday, April 21, 2014

NYT: Suspect in Art Swindle, Is Arrested in Spain

"The art dealer, Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who has been sought for many months, was arrested by the Spanish police on Friday at a luxury hotel in downtown Seville…"
Federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents in New York believe that Mr. Bergantiños carried out a daring forgery swindle that fooled the art world, leading collectors to spend more than $80 million on dozens of fake masterworks by painters including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. 
Motherwell (Google) 
The swindle, officials have said, was carried out with Mr. Bergantiños’s girlfriend, Glafira Rosales, who was charged last May and pleaded guilty in September in the scheme. She has been cooperating with the federal authorities.

One element of the scheme that has riveted the art world is the source of the fraud: a single immigrant from China who painted out of his home and garage in Woodhaven, Queens, and produced the scores of paintings and drawings that were successfully presented as newly discovered works by some of the 20th century’s greatest artists.

The painter, Pei-Shen Qian, received formal training at an art school in New York. Federal authorities, who identified Mr. Bergantiños as Co-Conspirator No. 1 in the indictment charging Ms. Rosales, said he met and befriended Mr. Qian in the 1980s, while the artist was painting on the street in Manhattan.

Federal officials have said that Mr. Bergantiños treated the canvases to make them look old and then forged the signatures of artists like Pollock and Motherwell.
Living in the so called information age, the age old fraud is still possible, it seems. I take some small comfort/pleasure in that. Not of the schadenfreudic kind, if you take my word for it. But a small, maybe not so small, pleasure in seeing how dreams and desires can still overcome the most likely probability that we are being taken in, fooled, engañados. We are still believing creatures, mostly.


ricpic said...

Forgery of many modern "masters" is notoriously easy. After all, what did Pollack do? He dripped paint on the canvas. Motherwell painted large flat hard edged shapes. Rothko might be a little tougher to fake but not much. His gimmick was large flat thinly painted rectangles or squares that "floated" - they were soft edge - on their backgrounds. The amazing thing is that more forgers haven't been caught. Which means that in many an uber-rich living room there ARE forgeries of modern masters that were bought as investments on the advice of art world "experts" and that both the owners and the experts who advised that they be purchased have every incentive NOT to question their authenticity.

The Dude said...

I knew a guy out west who made "Calders" in his spare time. He didn't sell them, but I could see them getting into the art market after changing hands a few times.

The movie "Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?" touched on these themes.