European hedge-fund executive Pierre Lagrange’s is suing NYC’s Knoedler Gallery for selling him a fake Jackson Pollock painting
Before parting with $15.3 million for the painting in 2007, Lagrange had apparently been told by the gallery that the painting, ‘Untitled, 1950’, was a genuine Pollack, and had come from ‘a private collector who had inherited it’. But, subsequent tests by a ‘preeminent materials-analysis and consulting firm’, revealed that ‘the work is a forgery and the provenance is demonstrably false’, and that ‘The work is neither authentic nor saleable.’ These conclusions were arrived at thanks to the fact that some of the paints used in the fraudulent work were dated to 1957 – a year after Pollock died.
Lagrange, the co-founder of GLG Partners and now with the Man Group, has filed charges of breach of express warranty, fraud and unjust enrichment, demanding the $15.3 million back from the gallery, and damages for ‘willful and intentional misconduct’.
He alleges that the gallery – an early champion Pollock’s work – withheld information regarding several experts who refused to confirm the painting’s authenticity. Upon asking why the work was not listed in Jackson Pollack’s catalogue of works, the gallery apparently told Lagrange that the catalogue was currently being updated, and that the painting would appear in the forthcoming edition.
Lagrange only discovered there was a problem when both Christie’s and Sotheby’s ‘refused to sell the work because of questions concerning its provenance and authenticity’. The gallery denies claims that they wilfully withheld information, stating that ‘the allegations of misrepresentation are completely baseless’. But the damage has already been done, with the 165-year-old gallery announced closure the following day. An public email from the gallery read; ‘It is with profound regret that the owners of Knoedler Gallery announce its closing, effective today. …Gallery staff will assist with an orderly winding down of Knoedler Gallery’. The decision to close comes after a lengthy period of financial hardship for the gallery, having been forced into selling its opulent premises in February.
Lagrange’s lawyer told the New York Times: ‘It’s a sad day when a venerable gallery goes out of business when confronted with the fact that it sold its clients a $17million fake painting’. But this in not in fact the first time that the Knoedler Gallery has been involved in such an incident: in May, the then-president Ann Freeman was accused of conspiring to invent fake provenance for a series of fraudulent Robert Motherwell paintings. The case was resolved when the Knoedler gallery gave the buyer the full refund of $650,000.
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