If you have been wondering what happened to the fraud case which closed the 150 year old Knoedler Gallery in New York, there have been major new developments. A Federal judge has ordered that two cases relating to the alleged sale of forged Abstract Expressionist paintings, are to go to trial. The two cases involve the multimillion dollar sale of fake artworks by such luminaries as Rothko, Pollock, Motherwell, Diebenkorn and De Kooning.
Several lawsuits associated with the criminal forgery ring responsible for flooding the market with over $60 million worth of Post War masterpieces, have been settled out of court, for undisclosed figures. This includes the hedge fund manager Pierre LaGrange’s allegedly fake Jackson Pollock. Knoedler’s former President Ann Freedman, and Knoedler’s owner Michael Hammer have now been directly named in two new lawsuits. Domenico de Sole, the former chairman of Gucci, now on the board of Sotheby’s, purchased a forgery resembling a Mark Rothko and collector John Howard, reportedly bought a de Kooning painting that is not right. The works will now be central to a new trial.
Luke Nikas Ms Freedman’s attorney insists; “This case is about integrity, and as much as we may respectfully disagree with the decision, it has an important silver lining: Ann Freedman will now have the full opportunity to tell her story and prove her good faith.” Freedman and Knoedler have denied that they knowingly sold fakes, but the bottom line is they failed their customers by allowing the paintings onto the market in the first place.
The works of art have been traced to a Chinese painter in Flushing, Queens named as Pei-Shen Qian. He has since fled the country to China. The sale of the works via Knoedler was brokered by Glafira Rosales a smalltime dealer from Long Island, who along with Spanish dealer Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz and his brother Jesus Angel Bergantiños Diaz. Rosales has been cooperating with authorities, since her arrest in May 2013. She pleaded guilty to charges and awaits sentencing. The Diaz brothers were arrested in Spain and released on bail, with no plans to extradite them to the US to stand trial.
Knoedler suddenly closed in 2011, when the first lawsuit was filed. Ann Freedman told Vanity Fair, “It’s amazing to think that this institution never stopped for 165 years,” she said. “It didn’t stop during the Civil War, World War I, World War II and I kept it open on 9/11.”