The de Sole-Knoedler trial continued yesterday with a strong opening argument by Ann Freedman’s lawyer, Luke Nikas. The detailed account reinforced the idea that Freedman had ample support from scholars and connoisseurs about the works Glafira Rosales brought to her.
What became quickly apparent is that this trial will leave no one involved looking good. In several pre-emptive strikes, Nikas warned that some of the experts would testify differently from the documents he adduced because they were trying to protect their reputations.
The plaintiffs will need to show that Freedman was craven and aggressive in exploiting the reticence of those with doubts. The New York Times’s Colin Moynihan captured some of that nuance in this first testimony of the trial:
During testimony in the afternoon, Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, the daughter of the painter Richard Diebenkorn, testified that she and her mother, Phyllis, had both seen works at the Knoedler Gallery in 1994 that were attributed to her father but did not appear to be genuine.
“I felt and my mother felt that they had no soul,” she testified. “They didn’t breathe.”
She said they expressed their doubts to Ms. Freedman but the dealers had little reaction.
But Mr. Nikas introduced into evidence a letter from Knoedler to Phyllis Diebenkorn dated 1995 that appeared to refer to those works and said that she and an art historian, John Elderfield, had “deemed them to be attributable to Richard Diebenkorn.”
Ms. Grant acknowledged that she had not objected to that letter when she first saw it but said that was only because her mother would not let her.
“She was so angry,” Ms. Grant said. “She said don’t answer that letter, it’s ridiculous.”
Knoedler Gallery Director’s Lawyer Says Other Experts Were Duped by Fake Rothko (The New York Times)