Anyone who thinks that works of art declared counterfeit simply disappear or perish in disgrace should speak to the catalog’s author, Jane Kaller. Raisson for Austrian painter Egon Schiele. She was offered the same fake Schiele watercolor for certification, she said, 10 times by 10 different collectors.
Or perhaps former federal prosecutor David L. Chat with Hall, who handled matters developed by The FBI’s Art Crime Team. He will tell you about a watercolor attributed to Andrew Wyeth that appeared on the market three times when Wyeth himself called a fake.
A dealer 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, which confiscated it. The FBI eventually gave it to Hall as a token of appreciation for all the years he spent pursuing the cases he developed.
“It’s on a shelf in my office,” Hall, now in private practice, said in an interview. “When I got it, I wrote ‘forgery’ in ink on the back.”
While it can be comforting to hear about fakes being destroyed by judges or boldly flagged as fraud, the reality is more complicated.
According to law enforcement officials, academic scholars and art market veterans, works that are declared counterfeit often enjoy diverse lives. Some are kept by universities as study tools, some as legions of well-intentioned donors who lacked expert eye. Some were used in a sting by an undercover agent who hoped that the sense of wealth created by fancy painting on a yacht would be a persuasive part of his currency.
But many work, experts say, have a second life that resembles their first: as counterfeits repurposed for counterfeit buyers.
“We see things spill back into the market — I think it happens regularly,” said Supervisory Special Agent Timothy Carpenter of the FBI’s art crime team.
Jack Flamm, President and Chief Executive Officer Daedalus Foundation, which was founded by artist Robert Motherwell to promote an understanding of modern art, stated that while putting together a catalog of Motherwell’s paintings and collages, the Foundation asked a collector that her paintings could not be included because It was fake. Years later, another collector who had bought the painting from the first came only to encounter the same disappointing news.
Kallir, author and president of Schiele Catalog Risen Kallir Research Institute, said he saw a fake “on average,” a week.
“Sometimes the fakes come up over and over again with different owners who haven’t been told what we told the former owner,” she said.
The issue is complicated by the fact that finding out that something is fake is often nothing more than an opinion – expert in many cases, credible in many cases – but an opinion nonetheless. Owners of such items are not always ready to admit that they have been defrauded, especially if they have paid too much for a defamatory deed.
“Sometimes, expertise gets passed down from generation to generation,” said James Roundell, director of the London-based dealer dickinson, who once headed Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art department.
“When someone tells the owner of a collection that he has something that is not genuine, the collector does not want to announce to the outside world that he has a counterfeit.”
Carpenter said he remembered a case where an early collector had bought about 300 prints, almost all of which were fake, and returned them when he tried to sell them through an auction house.
Carpenter said the auction house called in the FBI. “We confiscated all these pieces,” he said, “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 allowed us to keep 40 or so, but we demanded the return of the rest. We had to. They are his property.”
Carpenter said the collector eventually kept the prints in a storage facility, from where they were stolen. “These prints are almost certainly back on the market,” he said.
Deciding whether to market a work with conflicting attribution becomes much easier in cases where the fraudster’s hand has become apparent. In those cases, the matter becomes an act of fraud, not a dispute. Consider the case of the now-closed Knoedler & Company gallery, which sold dozens of works attributed to modernist masters, all of which were fakes.
The versatile painter who created them all eventually acknowledged his role in his creation, though he denied knowing that he would be marketed as original. The dealer who Knoedler them. brought to market through ultimately convicted for conspiracy, fraud and other offences. Friedman’s attorney, Luke Nikes, said the gallery and its director, Anne Friedman, were never charged, but were prosecuted, and that after the lawsuits were settled, the owners of 10 infamous works were interested in keeping them.
Three more counterfeits, originally sold as the work of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell, hang in Nikes’ office on loan from Friedman, who has said he was duped into buying several.
“They are important artifacts in the history of law and art, which here intersect in a compelling story about culture, morality and psychology,” Nikes said.
While there are many people in the art world who think that people fascinated by fakes exaggerate their prevalence in the market, there is no doubt that infamous works have a way of getting around.
Gary Wickan, former director of Walters Art Museum In Baltimore, said museum has hundreds of fakes. “They are primarily Roman, medieval and Renaissance works, acquired in 1902 by founder Henry Walters,” Wiccan said. “Some works were sold to him as paintings by Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has 14 fake Damien Hirst prints that were recovered from a fraudster’s apartment in 2016, according to a spokeswoman.
Universities with large collections of fakes include New York University and Harvard. They often use them as teaching tools.
“We have about 1,000 items that were donated as counterfeits by dealers, collectors and auction houses,” said Margaret Ellis, Eugene Thaw’s Professor Emerita of Paper Conservation Preservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. “But things are sometimes donated to universities and museums that are later found to be counterfeit.”
“Works range from imitation ancient Greek bronzes and imitation Rembrandt, Turner and van Gogh to contemporary prints,” Ellis said. “These help students know what they’re looking for and can be extremely educational when you put them side by side with the actual work. Art history students find that stylistic analysis is better than technical analysis.” needs to be supported.”
Harvard Art Museum – Fogg, Busch-Risinger and Arthur M. There are about 250 fake paintings and drawings donated by collectors and dealers – including the Sackler Museums. Miriam Stewart, curator of the collection in the division of European and American art, said the works range from Daumier and Corot’s imitations to Matisse and George Ines.
“Most of the works were accepted as fake,” Stewart said. “We were known a long time ago as a stockpile of counterfeits. But we no longer actively take in counterfeits. We haven’t done that in decades.”
The FBI has confiscated thousands of counterfeits, which are usually not destroyed but are stored in many places.
“I can’t tell you the exact number, but the total is over 3,000,” said Carpenter. “It’s mainly printed by artists like Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Joan Miró. I wouldn’t say they are in every field office. Things are sort of spread out, but among them Most are in storage facilities in New York, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.”
Rarely, however, has the FBI displayed some of its counterfeits. an exhibition, “Warning Emptor” Hosted by Fordham University in 2013 and once mistakenly attributed to Rembrandt, Gauguin, Renoir, Gris, Matisse and Chagall.
In one instance, the FBI used counterfeit artwork seized as part of a sting operation.
Robert Wittman, the former head of the FBI art crime team, said that, in 2007, while he was an undercover agent posing as a shady art dealer, he allegedly made six fake paintings by Dali, Degas, Southine, O’Keeffe, Klimt and Borrowed. Chagall was asked to “prove to two French mobsters that I was real” from an FBI warehouse in Miami.
The mobsters knew him as Bob Clay. “Using my real name,” he said, “I was following a core rule of working undercover: Keep the lies to a minimum. The more you lie, the more you have to remember.”
The script called for Wittman to sell the work to a Colombian drug dealer on a yacht off the coast of Florida. The drug dealer, as well as the captain, steward, and five bikini-clad women on board were FBI agents. The sale was completed with counterfeit diamonds and an alleged bank transfer, but the robbers eventually disappeared.
“The reason the art helped was that part of my legend as an undercover agent was that I dealt with stolen paintings.” Wittman said. “This proved that I was involved in criminal activity.”
The United States Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, also has a small collection of counterfeits, which were confiscated in 1991 in an undercover sting led by Jack Ellis, a Postal Service inspector that allegedly printed 100,000 counterfeit prints. helped to recover. Be by Dali, Picasso, Miro, Chagall and others.
Many fake Miros and Chagalls are on the walls of the Inspection Service Headquarters in Washington, DC, others are sometimes displayed at the Inspection Service’s Training Academy and in an exhibit at the National Postal Museum.
Most of the confiscated prints were destroyed on the instructions of a judge but the postal service said some should be saved. “Inspectors also recovered several sheets of paper in which the forgery had practiced forging signatures,” said James Tendick, a former colleague of Ellis.
As tempting, and as convincing as they may be, fakes certainly lose value once exposed. The shale expert, Kallir, said that he had seen it firsthand.
“I have three counterfeit shill oils and about 20 fake shills work on paper that were mostly discarded by the people who originally brought them for certification,” she said. “When we gave them our opinion, they didn’t want them back.”