Trial

Gallery sued over US$100K Chiparus fakes

A Manhattan art gallery is being sued for selling inauthentic sculptures by the renowned art deco artist Demétre Chiparus. The cost? Over US$100,000.

Christopher Rouse claims Elliot Stevens gallery attempted to convince him that the statues were made using original molds which was acquired after the sculptor died in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Rouse maintains to have been told that the statues were for sale at a 75% markdown because the gallery owners were retiring. In reality, however, the Romanian sculptor lived and died in Paris, and an expert witness at the trial in a Manhattan federal court testified that the statues were most likely Chinese-made forgeries copied from photographs.

The gallery denies that it mislead Rouse, insisting that his version of events are not true. According to documents, the gallery describes the artworks as having been “cast and carved from an original model by DH Chiparus.”

Elliot Stevens CEO Steven Shalom was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday but was forced to postpone his testimony due to illness. Shalom will testify in October, when the trial continues.

Peter Doig wins case involving painting's attribution

Peter Doig did not create a 40-year-old landscape painting, despite the claims of the former corrections officer who owns it, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday. As a result, he was not responsible for destroying the plaintiffs’ plan to sell the work for millions of dollars.

The ruling, after seven days of heated and sometimes bizarre testimony in federal court this month in Chicago, would appear to end one of the stranger art authentication cases in recent history. It had pitted Mr. Doig, a well-known artist whose works routinely sell for US$10 million, against the owner of the painting and that man’s art dealer. They had accused Mr. Doig of falsely denying that he had created the work as a young man in Canada, thus scuttling their efforts to sell it.

“Peter Doig could not have been the author of this work,” Judge Gary Feinerman said.

Two men copied famous artworks and sold them for millions

Two men hid out in a Melbourne studio, painting exact replicas of Brett Whiteley’s paintings and then sold them for millions of pounds. Art restorer Mohamed Aman Siddique and dealer Peter Gant were found guilty in May on charges of obtaining and attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception over the fakes.

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Peter Gant at the Supreme Court in Melbourne, during the Whiteley fake art court case (Stuart McEvoy for The Australian)

Barristers said at a pre-sentence hearing that Gant would never work in the industry again because of extra punishment he suffered due to publicity around the trial. Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham fell victim to the art fraud and bought a fake of Whiteley’s Big Blue Lavender Bay painting, which he thought was an original, for £1.5 million. The men also replicated Orange Lavender Bay and sold it for £600,000 and they were gearing up to sell a third, Through the Window, for almost £500,000.

The pair face the possibility of a maximum ten year prison sentence and have flagged their plans to appeal.

The hearing continues.

Two more antiquities may have to be returned by the National Gallery of Australia to India

Two more Asian antiquities in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection may have to be returned to India, with news of a new arrest in relation to an Indian art smuggling ring. Another antiquity trader has been arrested who may be involved in the looting of two pieces – an 1800-year-old limestone carving showing a scene from the life of Buddha and a 12th century statue of the Hindu goddess Pratyangira.

The report says investigators believe antiquity trader Deena Dayalan sold these two sculptures to disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is awaiting trial in an Indian prison. Kapoor sold the pieces to the NGA in 2005, which paid $800,000 for the Buddha and nearly $340,000 for the goddess Pratyangira.

Following an investigation by the NGA of its Asian art collection, the uncertain provenance of the works had already been flagged in the Crennan Report, released by the gallery in February, which identified at least 22 works under suspicion.

Why is the Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

Artist Lee Ufan will finally have a look at the paintings that the National Forensic Service confirmed as counterfeits of his works next Monday.

One of the largest art forgery cases in Korea seems to be nearing its end as a 66-year-old art forger surnamed Hyun, who allegedly created fake works of Lee Ufan, was arrested in May and has been put on trial. All 13 works seized by police from galleries accused of distributing the counterfeits were confirmed to be fake.

Spanish court rules not to extradite suspect in art fraud

A Spanish court has ruled that one of two brothers charged with perpetrating an art swindle valued at US$33 million should not be extradited for trial in the United States.

Spain’s National Court cited health reasons for deciding to halt the extradition of Jose Bergantinos Diaz, 60, who was arrested in April 2014 on a warrant issued by a New York district court. He is wanted, along with his brother Jesus Bergantinos Diaz, for passing-off fake art as the work of renowned painters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The court has already ruled that Jesus Bergantinos Diaz can be extradited.

The Bergantinos Diaz brothers are charged in the U.S. alongside Pei Shen Qian, the Chinese artist who allegedly painted the works in New York then fled to China.

Gallery worker pleads guilty in Afghan girl theft

Art studio employee Bree DeStephano pleaded guilty to stealing photographs from renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry, reports the Daily Local News. McCurry is best known for his June 1985 National Geographic cover Afghan Girl, an image of a young woman with haunting green eyes take at a refugee camp a year earlier.

DeStephano was arrested in June 2015 and accused of stealing $655,000 worth of photos from McCurry. Her guilty plea included three third degree felony charges: theft, conspiracy, and criminal use of a communication facility. DeStephano confessed in an affidavit taken by Chester County Detective Martin Carbonel, the lead investigator in the case.

Wendy Whiteley: 'It's definitely a fake'

The widow of renowned Australian artist Brett Whiteley didn’t tell Sydney Swans chairman and investment banker Andrew Pridham he had a huge $2.5 million fake hanging on his wall because she wanted to be sure before she broke the bad news.

But when she was shown a second painting attributed to Whiteley, Orange Lavender Bay, in the back of a truck by an art dealer at her Lavender Bay home in 2009, she was adamant.

It’s a fake, it’s definitely a fake,” was Wendy Whiteley’s response, she told the Supreme Court of Victoria on Friday, in Australia’s biggest alleged art fraud case.

Bird in $2.5m 'Brett Whiteley' painting looked like 'wet rag', expert tells court

A bird painted on a fake Brett Whiteley painting which sold for $2.5 million looked like a “wet rag”, a court has heard.

Professor Robyn Sloggett, the director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, is a key Crown witness in the fraud case against art dealer Peter Gant and art conservator Mohamed Aman Siddique.

Mr. Gant and Mr. Siddique are accused of taking part in a joint criminal enterprise to create and sell fake Whiteley paintings.

Former director of scandal-beset Knoedler Gallery breaks her silence

In 2009, two years before news of the Knoedler Gallery’s US$70m sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings began to emerge, Ann Freedman resigned as director. Two years later, the venerable gallery closed down and the lawsuits against Knoedler and Freedman began to flood in. Five settled. The first to reach trial, brought by the collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, also settled its claims against Freedman on 7 February (and against Knoedler shortly afterwards), just before she was set to take the stand in the New York courtroom. Her testimony had been eagerly anticipated, not least because she has never given her view of the unfolding scandal and her involvement in it. Until now.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in an exclusive interview, her first in several years, she summed up the situation thus: “There has been a lot of misunderstanding.” We spoke to her in her sun-filled gallery on the Upper East side, FreedmanArt, which she opened in 2011. “Looking back, there can be things I didn’t see at the time… Could I have done some things differently? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. I don’t have an answer sitting here. I will at some point probably.”