Michael Shnayerson’s Vanity Fair story on the Knoedler affair got a lot of attention late last week. It’s not that the story has anything that amounts to a smoking gun. Rather, Shnayerson assembles a portrait of Ann Freedman that is damaging because of the overall impression it leaves. Quoting Will Ameringer, “who calls her a fabulist who believes her own stories,” we’re left with the impression that Freedman was an aggressive sales person determined to prove herself by making big scores.
Shnayerson litters the article with instances of Freedman declaring scholarly and industry approval based upon the absence of an accusation. At one point, Freedman uses the prominent display of the works at Knoedler’s ADAA booth as proof the works were accepted by the trade as genuine.
Shnayerson spoke to three dealers about this. One remarked, ” The pros don’t say anything—they just turn their backs.” Another dealer says, “There was always incredulity among dealers. What the fuck is that?” (“Professional jealousy is not charming,” Freedman responds.)
Finally, Freedman’s wishful thinking extended to misrepresenting the opinions of scholars:
Freedman included a slip of paper listing the names of 12 art scholars who had viewed the Pollock in attempt to shore up its credibility, though none of the scholars performed a formal examination or authentication–they merely saw it. “I can’t just cold-canvass an art historian and say, ‘Would you please come in and look at my Pollock?'” Freedman says. Instead, when a scholar wandered into Knoedler for some other reason, she would lead him upstairs to see her Pollocks. “She says the scholars seemed to like them. They said nice things,” Shnayerson reports. She calls the slip of paper a “private memo. I regret that anyone’s name had to be put on the list without any forewarning,” she says.