Fakes and forgeries have besotted the Knoedler Gallery’s reputation since its sudden closure in 2011. This week is no different, as the Baer-Faxt announced that Virginia-based collectors and philanthropists Eugenia and Nicholas Taubman claim Knoedler Gallery sold them a fake Clyfford Still painting for $4.3 million. They have since filed a racketeering lawsuit against the former gallery, including owner Michael Hammer and former director Ann Freedman, as well as peripheral dealers involved with the sale, Glafira Rosales and Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz. This marks the sixth time Knoedler has been sued since shuttering its Upper East Side townhouse gallery.
The Taubmans join a growing roster of the world’s wealthiest who have purchased alleged forgeries from the gallery. Most recently, Canadian theatre magnate David Mirvish sued Knoedler Gallery in February 2013 for selling him several questionable Jackson Pollocks. The first alleged fake sold by Knoedler Gallery was also a Pollock, sold to London hedge fund manager, Pierre Lagrange. After Lagrange threatened to sue, Knoedler Gallery closed its doors for good.
These controversial paintings come from the same source, the David Herbert Collection. Under the directorship of Anne Freedman, Knoedler Gallery purchased approximately 20 paintings from Long Island dealers, Glafira Rosales and Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz. The paintings came to be known as the David Herbert Collection, a portfolio of approximately 20 Abstract Expressionist works including those by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. Nearly everyone served from that stew is coming out to claim their grievances.
As investigations press on, six complaints will seem relatively small given the size of the portfolio.