The New York art world was shocked when the city’s oldest gallery abruptly closed its doors more than four years ago. A few days later, news broke that Knoedler & Company was accused of selling paintings it now admits were forgeries for millions of dollars each. The gallery and its former president face several lawsuits by angry collectors and the first trial began this week.
The forgeries at the center of the scandal look like masterpieces by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and other prominent abstract expressionists. They were good enough to fool experts, and even Ann Freedman, then-president of Knoedler & Company, says she was duped.
Her lawyer, Luke Nikas, says, “Ann Freedman believed in these paintings. She showed them to the whole art world. She showed them to experts. And she has piles and piles of letters from all of these experts informing her that the works are real.”
Nikas says Freedman even bought some of the paintings for her own personal collection. But the plaintiffs in this case and other pending lawsuits say Freedman overlooked glaring problems with the paintings’ backstories. The art dealer who sold the paintings to the gallery, a woman named Glafira Rosales, pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges in 2013. According to Freedman, Rosales told an elaborate story involving a European collector (known only as “Mr. X”) who bought the paintings with cash in the 1950s, when he was having an affair with an assistant at two top New York galleries.
“It’s quite a tale, and people bought it,” says Amy Adler, who teaches art law at New York University. “I suppose the temptation would be there — not just for buyers, but, yes, even for sellers — to think they’d happened upon these magnificent, undisclosed masterpieces.”
In the end, Rosales admitted to selling Knoedler 40 counterfeit paintings over more than a decade. The plaintiffs argue that Freedman knew — or at least should have known — that something was amiss. It’s hardly the first time an art dealer has been accused of deliberately looking the other way.
Ken Perenyi is a professional art forger who wrote about his career in the book Caveat Emptor. “From over 30 years’ experience with art dealers,” he says, “I would say there most certainly are individuals out there in the trade that will turn a blind eye.” . . .
“Each year, millions of visitors flock to Angkor Wat, an ancient temple in modern-day Cambodia. There, they marvel at the 900-year-old towers, a giant moat and the shallow relief sculptures of Hindu gods. But what they can’t see are 200 hidden paintings on the temple walls.
New, digitally enhanced images reveal detailed murals at Angkor Wat showing elephants, deities, boats, orchestral ensembles and people riding horses — all invisible to the naked eye.
Many of the faded markings could be graffiti left behind by pilgrims after Angkor Wat was abandoned in the 15th century. But the more elaborate paintings may be relics of the earliest attempts to restore the temple, researchers said.
Subtle traces of paint caught the eye of Noel Hidalgo Tan, a rock-art researcher at Australian National University in Canberra, while he was working on an excavation at Angkor Wat in 2010.
Built between A.D. 1113 and 1150, Angkor Wat stood at the center of Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire. The 500-acre (200 hectares) complex, one of the largest religious monuments ever erected, originally served as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, but was transformed into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. (more…)
“In painter Edvard Munch’s Girls on the Pier, three women lean against a railing facing a body of water in which houses are reflected. A peach-colored orb appears in the sky, but, curiously, casts no reflection in the water. Is it the Moon? The Sun? Is it imaginary? Does it matter?
To Donald Olson, an astrophysicist at Texas State University, the answer to the last question is an emphatic yes. Olson solves puzzles in literature, history and art using the tools of astronomy: charts, almanacs, painstaking calculations and computer programs that map ancient skies. He is perhaps the leading practitioner of what he calls “forensic astronomy.” But computers and math can take him only so far.
For Girls on the Pier, Olson and his research partner, Texas State physicist Russell Doescher, traveled to Asgardstrand, Norway, the resort town where Munch made the painting in the summer of 1901. By mapping the area and studying old postcards, the pair determined the exact location of the original pier (which had been torn down), the heights of the houses and the spot where Munch likely stood. They then retraced the paths of the Sun and the Moon across the sky at the time Munch was there.
They concluded that the setting Sun did not appear in that section of sky at that time, but the Moon did. As for the missing reflection, it was not an artistic choice, as some art historians had proposed, but a matter of optics: from the artist’s perspective, the row of houses blocked it. . . .”
Exhibition: “Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian Galleries”
Location:The Cleveland Museum of Art 11150 East Blvd., Cleveland
Opening Date: Jan. 2., 2014
Cost of Admission: Free
Further Information: www.clevelandart.org
“They were destinations of conquest and desire for millennia. Reaching them by caravan or by sea was dangerous, if not deadly. Yet traders and invaders from across Europe and Asia couldn’t resist the allure of China, India and Southeast Asia.
Thanks to the completion of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s new West Wing, Northeast Ohioans can now travel with ease – artistically speaking – to places that once fired the imaginations of Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Columbus and Magellan.
On Thursday, the museum will launch a members-only preview of six new galleries containing nearly 500 works of art in jade, silk, bronze, gold, porcelain, ink on paper and dozens of types of stone, including the blue-gray schist of Afghanistan and the red sandstone of the Ganges Valley. . . . .”