A gallery with a reputation for sour art deals is in the headlines again, this time accused of selling a fake modernist work allegedly painted by color master Mark Rothko.
The Knoedler Gallery, famous for selling a fake Jackson Pollock painting in 2007, has been slapped with a lawsuit by the Martin Hilti family after facilitating the sale of a $5.5 million untitled painting claimed to be a Rothko work, according to Blouin Artinfo. But forensic analysis has since shown that the painting features a red pigment developed in the 1960s, shattering the masterwork's provenance and prompting the buyers to file charges with U.S. District Court.
The New York Times reports that Knoedler originally bought the painting for $750K in 2002 from Long Island art dealer Gloria Rosales, who is currently under investigation by the FBI for trafficking forged paintings. The Hilti family was reportedly not aware of this connection, and was instead told that the painting came from a private collection in Switzerland. Now Knoedler Gallery is accused of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal law that allows extended penalties for ongoing criminal organizations. It's a claim that director Ann Freedman steadfastly denies in a statement provided to Blouin Artinfo: “These paintings were exhibited in museums around the world and heralded as masterworks." She continues, "The personal vendettas and professional jealously behind the attacks on the works and on my reputation should be obvious.”
This is the fourth lawsuit collectors have filed against Knoedler Gallery in just 13 months, including complaints over the sale of the fake Jackson Pollock drip work, a fake de Kooning painting and another "Rothko" work worth $8.3 million. Not surprisingly, the gallery has closed all operations, though Freedman continues to run her own gallery on New York's Upper East Side.
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