How a fake masterpiece ended up on walls of Florida museum

Mark Landis dressed in a faded black blazer, tucked a small, square piece of art into his black valise, and set off from Mississippi to meet with the directors of the Boca Museum of Art.

The museum was expecting a wealthy philanthropist.

Landis traveled by Greyhound bus.

When he arrived in Boca Raton that December of 2002, the senior curator at the time, Wendy Blazier, was eager to meet him. That summer, he had enticed her with a gift.

He sent a letter to the museum saying he had a rare drawing from the avant-garde French artist Marie Laurencin he wanted to donate. He listed several others he planned to give, including a work from Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico, whose work is renowned the world over.

And then there was this: He didn’t want to be paid for the artwork. Didn’t even want a write-off for his taxes, which most donors demand. He simply wanted the piece hung in memory of his father, the late Navy Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Landis Jr.

But why Boca, she’d asked him. What was his tie to the city?

“He said when he met me, he would reveal the connection,” Blazier recalls.

Blazier was used to eccentrics. But even by those standards, Landis is memorable 13 years later.

“It was such a strange and interesting encounter,” she said. “He was so odd.”

Read full report at: How a fake masterpiece ended up on walls of Florida museum

October 4th, 2015

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In the aftermath of the second world war, allied soldiers recovered paintings of great value that the Nazis had looted from museums during their conquest of Europe. Among these was a most remarkable work by the eminent Johann Vermeer, The woman taken in adultery, found in the stash of Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second-in-line. Tracing its acquisition records pointed to a certain Han van Meegeren as the dealer in Amsterdam and a potential traitor to the Netherlands. Faced with a charge of collaboration for selling a Dutch national treasure to the Nazis, van Meegeren wrestled with a dilemma: stand trial for this act of treason, punishable by death, or confess to forgery?

Van Meegeren had forged The woman taken in adultery, as well as a handful of other artworks, attributing them to Dutch golden age painters Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. This arose out of a desperate need for income due to his failing artistic career as well as a personal vendetta against the art historians and museum curators who denied his talents. 

Van Meegeren was a unique forger, in that he created ‘original forgeries’ – paintings made to resemble the style of a particular artist but which had never been created by them. He imitated the styles of the masters so convincingly that he was able to dupe both the Nazis and well-regarded art historians. He accomplished this with a number of duplicitous tricks, including purchasing genuinely aged canvases and using the expensive ultramarine blue pigment that artists would have exclusively used for blue in the 17th century.

One trick involved mixing bakelite into paint pigments and baking completed canvases in the oven – the resulting hard paint layer gave the appearance of authentic age. Bakelite is the common name for a resin, a thermosetting plastic synthesised from an elimination reaction between phenol and formaldehyde.

Unfortunately, his clever sleight of hand was eventually seen through. A key witness to the trial was Paul Coremans, a Belgian chemist. To disprove van Meegeren’s work, he conducted x-ray radiography on the forgeries. The radiograph revealed damage marks from van Meegeren’s modification of the canvases he had obtained to fit his new paintings, detecting traces of the old paint layer’s white lead residue he had scraped away and showing that the craquelure of the underlying primer layer did not match that of the painted surface layer, which van Meegeren had artificially induced. Another anachronism was that the ultramarine blue pigment van Meegeren had used contained traces of cobalt blue, a cheaper synthetic alternative that would have been unavailable during Vermeer’s time.

Read full text at: A veneer of Vermeer | Chemistry World

October 4th, 2015

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, Ton Cremers

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In the aftermath of the second world war, allied soldiers recovered paintings of great value that the Nazis had looted from museums during their conquest of Europe. Among these was a most remarkable work by the eminent Johann Vermeer, The woman taken in adultery, found in the stash of Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second-in-line. Tracing its acquisition records pointed to a certain Han van Meegeren as the dealer in Amsterdam and a potential traitor to the Netherlands. Faced with a charge of collaboration for selling a Dutch national treasure to the Nazis, van Meegeren wrestled with a dilemma: stand trial for this act of treason, punishable by death, or confess to forgery?

Van Meegeren had forged The woman taken in adultery, as well as a handful of other artworks, attributing them to Dutch golden age painters Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. This arose out of a desperate need for income due to his failing artistic career as well as a personal vendetta against the art historians and museum curators who denied his talents. 

Van Meegeren was a unique forger, in that he created ‘original forgeries’ – paintings made to resemble the style of a particular artist but which had never been created by them. He imitated the styles of the masters so convincingly that he was able to dupe both the Nazis and well-regarded art historians. He accomplished this with a number of duplicitous tricks, including purchasing genuinely aged canvases and using the expensive ultramarine blue pigment that artists would have exclusively used for blue in the 17th century.

One trick involved mixing bakelite into paint pigments and baking completed canvases in the oven – the resulting hard paint layer gave the appearance of authentic age. Bakelite is the common name for a resin, a thermosetting plastic synthesised from an elimination reaction between phenol and formaldehyde.

Unfortunately, his clever sleight of hand was eventually seen through. A key witness to the trial was Paul Coremans, a Belgian chemist. To disprove van Meegeren’s work, he conducted x-ray radiography on the forgeries. The radiograph revealed damage marks from van Meegeren’s modification of the canvases he had obtained to fit his new paintings, detecting traces of the old paint layer’s white lead residue he had scraped away and showing that the craquelure of the underlying primer layer did not match that of the painted surface layer, which van Meegeren had artificially induced. Another anachronism was that the ultramarine blue pigment van Meegeren had used contained traces of cobalt blue, a cheaper synthetic alternative that would have been unavailable during Vermeer’s time.

Read full text at: A veneer of Vermeer | Chemistry World

October 4th, 2015

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Knoedler fakes case will go to trial, judge orders

In a forgery scandal that shook the art world, the now-shuttered Knoedler Gallery and its former director Ann Freedman will have to go to trial in two cases involving the sale of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings, Manhattan’s federal court ruled on Wednesday, 30 September.  

In his three-page order, Judge Gardephe denied the gallery’s and Freedman’s motions for summary judgment in the lawsuits brought by the New York collector John Howard and Sotheby’s chairman Domenico De Sole and his wife, Eleanore. The judge said that his reasons for denying the motions “will be set forth in a forthcoming Memorandum Opinion and Order” but did not specify when.

The order also dismissed Knoedler’s owner Michael Hammer and the former gallery employee Michael Andrade from both cases. Hammer’s holding company 8-31 remains in the cases, although the judge dismissed certain claims against it.

Freedman, Knoedler, and Hammer have consistently denied they knowingly sold fakes.  Freedman’s lawyer Luke Nikas says: “This case is about integrity, and as much as we may respectfully disagree with the decision, it has an important silver lining: Ann Freedman will now have the full opportunity to tell her story and prove her good faith.” Knoedler and Hammer’s lawyer had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.

“The ruling recognises that the De Soles have mounted compelling evidence that they were defrauded. It shows the art world that this is a massive fraud that took place for over a decade,” says their attorney Gregory Clarick.

Around $60m worth of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings passed through Knoedler gallery, according to the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office. All the fakes were brought to Knoedler by the Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and federal tax evasion, and is now awaiting sentencing.

The scandal broke in late 2011, when the London hedge funder Pierre Lagrange filed a lawsuit charging that Knoedler sold him a work supposedly by Jackson Pollock that turned out to be a fake. The forgery ring ensnared Christie’s auction house, other art dealers such as Richard Feigen and Manny Silverman, who served as intermediaries in some sales, and noted collectors such as Jack Levy.

In all, ten lawsuits were brought against Knoedler and Freedman, four of which have been settled. The judge issued a separate opinion covering three of the other cases, dismissing certain claims and upholding others, but it has not been decided if these will go to trial.

Source: Knoedler fakes case will go to trial, judge orders

October 2nd, 2015

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Treasures… Beware of artful codgers

Eleanor Flegg

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

Shaun Greenhalgh fake Egyptian princess
Shaun Greenhalgh fake Egyptian princess

During the summer I visited an antiques shop in Dublin where I found a small painted box with oriental styling. The price was €135 and dealer assured me that it was 19th century. “Is the stamp more recent than the rest of the box?” I asked after showing him the “Made in Japan” logo.

“Yeah,” said the dealer shiftily, “that must have been done later.”

When I went back a few weeks later, the shop was closed. The incident was a salutary reminder of the shady side of the antiques industry. Fakes and forgeries are out there. The trouble is many forgeries are very good indeed and don’t come with “Made in Japan” stamped on the base. In fact, the little box was just a copy of a period piece, not intended to deceive. The dodgy dealer, however, was.

A forgery, just to define the terms, is an object made from scratch to be a fraudulent imitation of something else, designed to deceive just like a forged banknote. A fake is an original object that has been altered to give it the appearance of something else, like a painting with the signature of another artist added. A fence meantime, is a person, like Del Boy in Only Fools And Horses, who knowingly trades in dodgy goods.

More: Treasures… Beware of artful codgers – Independent.ie

September 26th, 2015

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A company used four fake Goya paintings to raise funds to build a medical center specializing in spinal cord injuries west of Madrid, the public prosecutor has said.Inversión y Explotación de Activos, SL produced an expert appraisal placing the collective value of the artwork at over €10 million, which was enough to persuade local authorities in the town of Villaviciosa de Odón to change its zoning plan to allow a former hotel to be converted into a specialized health center.But the police launched an investigation after suspecting that the paintings might not be the work of the great Spanish artist. Four people are now under court investigation in connection with the case.

more: Goya art forgery: Judge probes use of four fake Goyas to fund Madrid hospital | In English | EL PAÍS

September 17th, 2015

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A company used four fake Goya paintings to raise funds to build a medical center specializing in spinal cord injuries west of Madrid, the public prosecutor has said.Inversión y Explotación de Activos, SL produced an expert appraisal placing the collective value of the artwork at over €10 million, which was enough to persuade local authorities in the town of Villaviciosa de Odón to change its zoning plan to allow a former hotel to be converted into a specialized health center.But the police launched an investigation after suspecting that the paintings might not be the work of the great Spanish artist. Four people are now under court investigation in connection with the case.

more: Goya art forgery: Judge probes use of four fake Goyas to fund Madrid hospital | In English | EL PAÍS

September 17th, 2015

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