A New York man accused of selling dozens of fake paintings and sketches purported to be by famous artists including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to one count of wire fraud.
Prosecutors said the man, John Re, 54, had caused about $2.5 million (£1.5 million) in losses to victims. For nine years beginning in 2005, Mr. Re conned art collectors by creating a false provenance – a document that shows the history of a piece of art, prosecutors said. As a result John Re actually bought a submarine with the proceeds, which the trickster called the Deep Quest, after selling numerous false works including a fake Pollock painting, they said.
Born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming, the artist Jackson Pollock studied under Thomas Hart Benton before leaving traditional techniques to explore abstraction expressionism via his splatter and action pieces, which involved pouring paint directly onto canvases. Pollock was both renowned and critiqued for his conventions. He died after driving drunk and crashing into a tree in New York in 1956, aged just 44.
Prosecutors said over that period of time, John Re lied about the authenticity of dozens of paintings, sketches and pastels. They said American artists Pollock and De Kooning were among names Re used to entice buyers to pay out for numerous fake pieces of art.
Mr. Re continued to sell the fake artworks even after appraisers determined they were not authentic, prosecutors said. In one case, when a victim confronted Mr. Re, he threatened violence in response, claiming that the person should be wary of his alleged connections to organised crime.
t now looks as though Mr. Re could face up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 10th in United States District Court in Manhattan. Re is also prohibited from selling the submarine until he repays the $2.5 million, as part of a plea agreement.