Fake Pollock’s $15m Profit & Other Tales of the Glafira Rosales Trove

The New York Times is having a blast with the continuing court case involving Knoedler, Pierre La Grange and the disputed works of art sold by Knoedler and acquired from Glafira Rosales. In a story that will appear on the front page of the Arts section this Sunday, Patricia Cohen explains why Freedman took such a risk with these undocumented works (read the full story to get a better understanding of the forces at play in the whole controversy):

So, confronted with paintings that lacked documentation, that could theoretically have been painted, as one lawyer put it, “in Ms. Rosales’s garage,” Ms. Freedman said she focused on what really mattered, the quality of the works themselves.

And they were extraordinary, Ms. Freedman declared. She enlisted several experts to check her own impressions of the Rothkos, Pollocks, Barnett Newmans, Clyfford Stills and other works that Ms. Rosales supplied. Claude Cernuschi, for example, the author of a book on Pollock, attested to the authenticity of a small painting signed “J. Pollock” and called “Untitled 1950.” The National Gallery of Art, where an authoritative compendium of Rothko’s works on paper — known as the catalogue raisonné — was being assembled, wrote that two of the Rothkos looked genuine.

By 2000 or so Ms. Freedman had bought three of Ms. Rosales’s offerings herself: the Rothko from their first meeting, “Untitled 1959,” for $200,000; a Pollock for $300,000; and a Motherwell for $20,000. “If Ann Freedman had any questions about these works, she and her husband would not have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in them,” her lawyer, Nicholas Gravante Jr., said. [...]

And confirmation was coming in from other precincts. Mr. Mirvish brought the artist Frank Stella, a contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists, to the gallery in 2006. After inspecting several Rosales paintings Mr. Stella said, “Each one is too good to be true, but seeing them in context, as a group, makes one realize they are true,” according to notes of the conversation that Ms. Freedman testified about in court.

Headiest of all, perhaps, the appeal of the Rosales paintings was being confirmed in the marketplace. Ms. Freedman testified that she ultimately sold 15 or 16 of the works at Knoedler for a total of $27 million to $37 million. The most expensive was “Untitled 1950,” ostensibly by Pollock, which sold in 2007 through an intermediary dealer to a London hedge-fund director named Pierre Lagrange. Knoedler and Mr. Mirvish had jointly bought the tangle of black, red and white lines flicked across a bright silver background several years earlier for about $2 million. Mr. Lagrange paid $17 million.

Suitable for Suing (New York Times)