If you’re making a counterfeit here’s a fun tip: check your spelling, just in case.
Throughout a series of lawsuits from collectors who have purchased counterfeit art from Knoedler & Company, President Ann Freedman insisted on having no idea of the fraudulence of what she was selling. On Thursday, in an entertaining twist, newly released documents in an ongoing civil case showed that a $280,000 Pollock purchased by Ann Freedman herself from the same source as the other counterfeit works was a fraud. What’s the proof? The painting was signed “Jackson Pollok.” Thats P-o-l-l-o-k. So does this help or hurt Freedman’s steadfast case that she was unaware of and had no part in the fraud?
Throughout a 15-year period, it is estimated that the gallery sold $63 million of fake art until they eventually closed in 2011. All of the counterfeit art was provided by Glafira Rosales, a mysterious Long Island dealer who pleaded to wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion back in September of 2013. Freedman, unlike Rosales, has yet to be charged with any crime and claims that she has had no part in any illegal act. There have been signs, however, that she knew what she was buying; Knoedler purchased some of the counterfeit paintings for 6 to 700 percent less than they sold them for, which definitely suggests foul play.
Freedman’s lawyer, Luke Nikas, is trying to use his client’s purchase of her own counterfeit painting to get her off the hook. Nikas pointed out in a statement to the New York Times, “It is absurd to believe that Ms. Freedman would have paid nearly $300,000 for the work, asked a world-renowned expert to examine the work, hung the work openly in her apartment for over a decade.” It may not be entirely absurd, though. If Freedman was confident enough in her forged work to sell it to others, putting the work on her wall doesn’t seem much bolder. Then there’s just the weirdness of the unnoticed “Pollok” spelling error.
If you bought a knockoff bag from a vendor in Chinatown, it wouldn’t take you fourteen years to realize it says “Praderp” on the front instead of “Prada.” Still, these types of unnoticed clues to forgeries are more common than you’d think; out there is a Frida Kahlo painting with a Diego on her cheek rather than her forehead, and Giacometti figure with its gender mis-identified. There’s also a Botero sculpture with two left feet, but we’ve been told that’s just the sloppiness of his sculpture factory.
In any case, this development could help bring about closure in this prolonged legal battle. If Freedman’s lawyer’s plea catches on with the jury, maybe this means her charges can be downgraded from fraudulence to just good old-fashioned denial.