Anyone who thinks that works of art that have been declared counterfeit are simply lost or destroyed in disgrace should speak to Jane Kallir, the catalog’s author. Raisonné for the Austrian painter Egon Schiele. He said that the same fake Schiele watercolor was offered to him for authentication 10 times by 10 different collectors.
Or you can chat with former federal prosecutor David L. Hall. The FBI’s art crime team. He will tell you about a watercolor attributed to Andrew Wyeth that was released three times after Wyeth himself called it a fake.
A dealer had paid $20,000 for it, and when he tried to sell it at auction in 2008, the curator of Wyeth’s collection recognized it and contacted the FBI, who had seized it. The FBI eventually gave it to Hall as a token of appreciation for all the years he’s spent tracking down the cases he’s developed.
“It’s on a shelf in my office,” Hall, who is now in private practice, said in an interview. “I wrote ‘fake’ in ink on the back when I got it.
While it may be comforting to hear about counterfeits ordered to be destroyed by judges or boldly flagged as fraudulent, the truth is more complex.
According to law enforcement officials, academics, and art market veterans, works that are declared fake often have various afterlife. Some are held by universities as educational tools, others as a legacy of well-meaning donors without an expert eye. Some were used in needles by a secret agent, who hoped that the opulent feeling created by ornate paintings on a yacht would be a convincing part of his pose.
But experts say many of the artifacts have second lives that are very similar to the first: as counterfeit items are recycled to unsuspecting buyers.
“We’re seeing things come back to the market — I think it happens routinely,” said Timothy Carpenter, special supervisory agent for the FBI art crimes team.
Jack Flam, president and CEO of the company Dedalus FoundationHe said that the foundation, which was founded by artist Robert Motherwell to develop the understanding of modern art, told a collector that his painting could not be included because it was a fake, while putting together the catalog raisonné of Motherwell’s paintings and collages. A few years later, another collector emerged who had purchased the painting from the first, but was faced with the same disappointing news.
Kallir, author of the Schiele catalog raisonné and Kallir Research InstituteHe said he sees fakes “on average” once a week.
“Sometimes counterfeit items come back over and over with different owners who don’t say what we told the previous owner,” he said.
The problem is complicated by the fact that a finding that something is fake is usually nothing more than an opinion – in many cases an expert, in most cases reliable – but an opinion nonetheless. Owners of such items are not always willing to admit that they have been deceived, especially if they have paid a lot of money for a discredited business.
“Sometimes expertise changes over generations,” said James Roundell, director of the London-based franchise. DickinsonHe was once head of the impressionist and modern art department at Christie’s.
“When someone tells the owner of a collection that they have something that isn’t real, the collector doesn’t want to let the outside world know it’s fake.”
Carpenter said he remembers a case where a novice collector bought about 300 prints, almost all of which were counterfeit, and were turned down when he tried to sell them through an auction house.
“We had all these pieces confiscated,” Carpenter said, noting that the auction house called the FBI, “but this guy didn’t like it. He thought the auction house didn’t know what they were doing. He thought we didn’t know what we were doing. He let us hold about 40 for us to confiscate, but asked for the rest to be returned. we had to. They are his property.”
Carpenter said the collector eventually put the prints in a storage facility where they were stolen. “These prints are almost certainly back on the market,” he said.
It is much easier to decide whether a work will be sold or not be of a controversial nature when the forger’s hand becomes clear. In this case, the issue turns into a scam, not a disagreement. Consider the now-defunct Knoedler & Company gallery, which sells dozens of works attributed to Modernist masters, all of which are fake.
The versatile painter who did it all acknowledged his role in his creations, although he denied knowing they would be marketed as originals. The seller who brought them to market through Knoedler finally admitted his guilt conspiracy, fraud and other crimes. Freedman’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, said the gallery and its director, Anne Freedman, were never charged, but were sued, and once the cases were settled, the owners of the 10 discredited works were interested in keeping them.
Three more fakes, originally sold as work by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell, were borrowed from Freedman at Nikas’ office, who said he had been tricked into buying several.
“These are important works in the histories of law and art, which intersect here in a compelling story about culture, morality, and psychology,” Nikas said.
While there are many in the art world who think that admirers of counterfeit products are exaggerating their market prevalence, there is little doubt that discredited works are a way to get around.
Gary Vikan, former director Walters Art Museum He said there are hundreds of fakes in the museum in Baltimore. “These are mostly Roman, medieval and Renaissance artifacts bought by founder Henry Walters in 1902,” Vikan said. “Some works were sold to him as paintings by Michelangelo, Titian, and Raphael.”
According to a spokesperson, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has 14 fake Damien Hirst prints seized from a crook’s apartment in 2016.
Universities with large fake collections include New York University and Harvard. They often use them as teaching tools.
“We have about 1,000 objects donated as fakes by dealers, collectors and auction houses,” said Margaret Ellis, professor of Eugene Thaw. New York University Fine Arts Institute Conservation Center. However, it is sometimes donated to universities and museums, which are later found to be counterfeit.”
“Works range from faux ancient Greek bronzes and faux Rembrandt, Turners, and van Goghs to contemporary prints,” Ellis said. “These help students know what they’re looking at and can be extremely educational when you juxtapose them with actual work. Art history students discover that stylistic analysis must be supplemented with technical analysis.”
Harvard Art Museums It has approximately 250 fake paintings and drawings donated by collectors and dealers – comprising the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M. Sackler museums. Miriam Stewart, the collection’s curator in the European and American art division, said the works range from fakes by Daumier and Corot to Matisse and George Inness.
“Most of the jobs were considered fake,” Stewart said. “We were known a long time ago as a kind of repository of false information. But now we do not actively buy fakes. We haven’t done that in decades.”
The FBI confiscated thousands of counterfeit items that are not usually destroyed but are stored in many places.
“I can’t give you an exact number, but the total is more than 3,000,” Carpenter said. “Mostly prints by artists like Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Joan Miró. I will not say that they are in every field office. Things are a little messy, but most of them are in storage facilities in New York, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.”
Rarely, the FBI has exhibited some of its fakes. an exhibition, “Alert Receiver” It was hosted by Fordham University in 2013 and included paintings that were once mistakenly attributed to Rembrandt, Gauguin, Renoir, Gris, Matisse, and Chagall.
In one instance, the FBI used counterfeit artwork that it had seized as part of a sting operation.
Robert Wittman, the former head of the FBI’s art crimes team, was an undercover agent pretending to be a questionable art dealer in 2007, while Dalí, Degas, Soutine, O’Keeffe, Klimt, and Chagall from an FBI warehouse in Miami sought to “prove to two French gangsters that I’m real”. .
The gangsters knew him as Bob Clay. “Using my real name,” he said, “I was following a basic rule of undercover: Keep lies to a minimum. The more lies you tell, the more you have to remember.”
The script urged Wittman to sell to a Colombian drug dealer on a yacht off the coast of Florida. In addition to the drug dealer, the captain, the housekeeper, and the five women in bikinis on board were FBI agents. The sale was completed with fake diamonds and a so-called bank transfer, but the gangsters eventually disappeared.
“The reason art helped was because part of my legend as a secret agent was dealing with stolen paintings.” said Wittman. “This proved that I was involved in criminal activity.”
The United States Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement agency of the Postal Service, has a small collection of counterfeit items seized in a covert operation led by Postal Service inspector Jack Ellis in 1991, which has helped save 100,000 forgeries. Be by Dalí, Picasso, Miró, Chagall and others.
A few of the fake Mirós and Chagalls are on the walls of the Inspection Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. Others are occasionally displayed at the Inspection Service’s training academy and in an exhibit at the National Postal Museum.
Most of the fingerprints seized were destroyed by order of a judge, but the Postal Service requested that some be recovered. “Investigators also seized several pieces of paper where the fraudster had practiced how to forge Dalí signatures,” said James Tendick, a former colleague of Ellis’s.
No matter how fascinating and believable the fakes are, they certainly lose their value once their masks are unmasked. Schiele expert Kallir said he witnessed this firsthand.
“I have three fake Schiele oil and, on paper, about 20 fake Schiele artworks, mostly abandoned by the people who originally brought them for authentication,” he said. “After we gave them our opinion, they didn’t want them back.”