A 67-year-old assessor named Wolf G., and a 60-year-old art dealer named Hans K., have been accused of art fraud and the falsification of documents, in a court case that has been brought against a German ring who stand accused of knowingly attempting to put a forged Alberto Giacometti sculpture on the market, Süddeutsche Zeitung has reported.
Wolf. G’s ex-wife Ulrike G., a 63-year-old solicitor and her 92-year-old mother have been accused of being accomplices. Wolf. G acquired a fake Giacometti sculpture in 2008 in a barter deal with a man identified as Lothar Se, according to court documents. Lothar Se was a member of criminal gang surrounding the Dutch Giacometti forger Robert Driessen.
The forger Robert Driessen and his accomplices are thought to have made €8 million, or £5.7 million, through the sale of Driessen’s forgeries until they were finally apprehended in 2011. It appears that Driessen had a particular focus on Giacometti, after Police discovered over 1,000 bronze forgeries of the artist’s highly recognisable work in the gang’s warehouse. The authorities subsequently melted down the fakes, but with this recent discovery is seems that many are still on the market.
In March 2009 Wolf G. attempted to consign the fake Giacometti Walking Man sculpture to a Swiss auction house, asking CHF 5 million, or £3.4 million for it. But his attempts were unsuccessful; after a Giacometti expert identified the sculpture as being a copy, and the item was refused.
Wolf G. and art dealer Hans. K seemingly unperturbed by the initial failure to commit serious fraud, then attempted to sell the sculpture to a private collector for €350,000, or £252,077, but the deal collapsed after the collector was unable to secure a loan.
Several months later Lother Se. attempted to con Sotheby’s, Frankfurt, but the fake was rejected yet again. Following a third unsuccessful sale attempt, Lothar Se. was arrested after trying to sell the work, but this time to an undercover detective for €1.5 million or £1.07 million. An investigation followed, which subsequently led detectives to Wolf G., Hans K. and Ulrike G.
The case is already being compared to the German career art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi, who was recently released on probation, after serving three years of a six-year prison sentence for being convicted of creating 14 fake works of art purported to be by the likes of Max Ernst and Heinrich Campendonk.