August 28, 2019
After more than eight years of legal wrangling over tens of millions of dollars worth of forged artworks sold through the now-shuttered Knoedler Gallery, the 10th and final federal lawsuit, over a $5.5 million fake Mark Rothko, was settled earlier this month.
The case was first filed in 2013 by the Lichtenstein-based Hilti Family Trust, which purchased the painting in 2002. After reports first started circulating around 2011 about authenticity concerns for a trove of Abstract Expressionist paintings sold through Knoedler, the trust submitted paint from their work for forensic analysis, and learned that the work was a fake.
The case initially named a lengthy list of defendants, including Knoedler Gallery, its former president, Ann Freedman, gallery owner Michael Hammer, and his related company, 8-31 Holdings, as well as Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales, the only person convicted in a related criminal investigation, and Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, Rosales’s former partner, who reportedly hired Queens-based Chinese painter Pei-Shen Qian to create the works.
Bergantiños-Diaz fled to Spain and has managed to avoid extradition, while Qian has reportedly fled to China. Freedman already settled by mid-July, the Art Newspaper reported. By that time, the remaining defendants were Knoedler, 8-31 Holdings, and Hammer.
In mid-July, the presiding judge in the case, Paul Gardephe, issued an order of dismissal, noting that “all claims herein have been settled,” and that the case was dismissed “with prejudice.” However, “if the settlement is not consummated within 45 days of this order,” according to court papers, either party was entitled to apply for “restoration of the action.”
Follow-up orders from Judge Gardephe issued on On August 7 and 8 contained no further detail about the terms of the settlement. None of the attorneys for the plaintiffs or defendants responded to request for comment.
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