Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

April 29 2016

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

Picture: TAN

There's an interesting letter in The Art Newspaper which sheds a little more light on the Knoedler fakes scandal. It is written by Dr Sharon Flescher, the director of IFAR, the International Foundation for Art Research, which was invited to subject a purported Jackson Pollock (above) bought from Knoedler for rigorous testing by Jack Levy, a collector who had bought the picture from Knoedler in 2001.

Dr Flescher was writing in response to this Art Newspaper interview given by Anne Freedman, the former director of Knoedler, which appeared to suggest that IFAR could not "determine whether the work was authentic or not” - in other words, that the painting wasn't ruled to be a fake for certain. The section of Freedman's interview which covers the IFAR report is headed 'Inconclusive report'. But Dr Flescher writes:

As the report makes clear, IFAR had serious concerns about the painting’s style, material properties, signature, lack of documentation, and reported provenance, which we concluded was “inconceivable”. We wrote three times within the report, and again in the cover letter, that we could not accept the work as a Pollock. And we were right. If we were writing a catalogue raisonné, it would not have been included.

Also incorrect is the assertion that a “recent history of bad feelings” between IFAR and Knoedler might have affected our report. There were no bad feelings during my tenure that I know of, nor would any have affected our report. To imply otherwise is offensive. We are a 47-year-old non-profit dedicated to integrity in the visual arts.

Finally, it was disclosed at the outset that the specialists would be anonymous. Only Ms. Freedman knows why she didn’t heed the warnings in IFAR’s report. In any event, the report was not written for her, but for Mr. Levy, who certainly understood its conclusion when he demanded, and received, a full refund. 

The picture was bought for a reported $2m. The point of all this is that IFAR's warning sirens were sounded in 2003, after which time Knoedler continued to sell many fake works as genuine, for much higher prices, all of which came from the same source, the art dealer Glafira Rosales who has since pleaded guilty to selling fakes. For example, another 'Pollock' was sold in 2007 for $17m to Pierre Lagrange. In all, Knoedler bought 40 undocumented works from Rosales. And according to this 2012 article in Vanity Fair, concerns about the alleged provenance of Mr Levy's 'Pollock' led to the provenance of subsequent of Rosales' sourced pictures apparently changing. 

So the question continues to be; how much did Freedman know, and when? Rosales started selling fakes to Knoedler in 1994, and the gallery closed in 2011. In her Art Newspaper interview, Freedman describes herself as "the perfect mark" for Rosales' fake operation. If anything, she's selling herself short.

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