The Chinese Artist & The £50 Million Art Fraud

An artist story in the New York Times caught my bleary, jaundiced eye this morning (my wife and I are respite-caring for a somewhat hyperactive 8 year old boy). A gentleman called Pei-Shen Qian from Queens, New York made a seemingly modest living as an artist from his equally modest abode. Strangely, though his windows were never available to the curious eyes of passers by. They stayed firmly covered up. But who was the man in the flash car who kept coming in and out with paintings?
Mr Qian, it turns out was a frustrated artist, struggling to make a crust as he hit his 73rd year. But did he fake dozens of American art masters to the value of £50 million? Despite 40 years in the US, Mr Qian had failed to make a mark in the art world and had difficulties with the language (after mastering Chinese, you'd think 40 years on, English would be a doddle). Did he turn his skilled brush to more lucrative work? The Feds think so. They say he is the art faker behind one of the greatest art frauds in US history.
A certain dealer called Glafira Rosales, was recently indicted for selling these fake paintings. They threw in tax evasion and money laundering charges - but did not name Mr Qian. However "sources close to the heart of the investigation" whisper Qian's name as the man tentatively called "the Painter" in the indictment. Neighbours say the FBI raided his home - a fair old clue as to the rumours accuracy.
Over 20 years ago, Mr. Qian was valiantly trying to sell his own art on the streets of Lower Manhattan (no easy task) when Ms. Rosales’s art dealer boyfriend Jose Carlos BergantiƱos Diaz allegedly roped Mr Qian in to dash off some work by famous Abstract Expressionists. Mr Qian ground out of his tiny studio at least 60 "newly discovered" drawings and paintings signed Pollock, Motherwell, Newman, and Diebenkorn.
Ms. Rosales flipped the art to now shut Manhattan dealers, Knoedler & Company who flogged them for millions of dollars on the word of "gallery experts" and gallery reputation. Executives say they thought they were authentic. Did they not worry about the lack of documentation and provenance? Apparently not. Most of the art, according to Ms. Rosales, came from a collection mysteriously inherited from someones dad who wanted to stay anon and became known as "Mr X" or sometimes (presumably around Xmas), "Secret Santa."
So if you are in New York and an elderly Chinese gentleman approaches you and offers you a "nice Diebenkorn" then fork out the few dollars and hang it on your wall pronto. They seem to be good fakes, and God knows its the only hope of having one on most of our walls...


20,000 Warhols For Sale. Run for your life...

Andy Warhol is not my favourite. He is not in the top 1,000 of my favourite artists. He is not anywhere, in fact. FaceBook friends have occasionally (not so) gently abused me for this viewpoint. But Jonathan Jones got it dead on, as usual, in his latest Guardian piece: "like the late, great art critic Robert Hughes, the artist of soup cans and car crashes, prophet of celebrity culture and pioneer of the hands-off business approach to art, was a moral reprobate and aesthetic fraud".
Warhol's prices keep climbing. I believe it is an "art bubble" waiting to pop. Is it just co-incidence that the Andy Warhol Foundation has stated that it is flogging off the remaining 20,000 pieces of the artists work it has in stock. Now it wants to "do grants". Those are not little alarm bells tinkling that you hear. It is screaming sirens going off. They want to sell in this terrible economic climate? How many? Dearie me - that wouldn't give me any warm glows of comfort if I had invested in Warhol's factory fodder. Oh, yes… and it will not authenticate Warhol's art any more. Really? Then who will? Actually, truth is, I don't give a monkeys…
Jones points in astute directions: "However, in a powerful investigative article for the New York Review of Books, the art critic Richard Dorment suggests connections between the planned sell-off, the closure of the Warhol authentication board and a series of legal disputes about what is a "real" Warhol work. There is a poison at the heart of Warhol's legacy. It is this: most of his works from around 1970 onwards were made in off-site studios that he never visited. He simply sent templates for the paintings and prints to be made from, and signed the finished works when they were sent to him. Warhol started by parodying factory methods, and went on to rely on them."
I suspect that the art market is awash with fakes of Mr Warhol. In a booming art market, some collectors put on their "money blinkers" and sign the cheques. Some collectors have had their work "denied" as genuine and lawsuits are flying around. Warhol, I suspect, would have just giggled.
Jones sums it up: 'Warhol's prices today are phenomenal. But how authentic are those "masterpieces" that sell for millions? Is there even such a thing as a genuine Andy Warhol? What you see is what you get, said Warhol. He was joking, as usual".


Artist? Care for a glass of acid? Razor? Butcher knife? Rope? Or just lick the arsenic off your brushes…

Some artists chose to leave this world by their own hands. Unknown, are the multitudes of artists who - unknowingly - killed themselves over time by licking lead and arsenic off their brushes,. But here is a taste of artists who (mostly) meant it. Ready. Steady. Let's jump right in…

Drank carbolic acid. Took a lethal dose of barbiturates and slashed her wrists. Overdosed on sleeping pills in Baghdad. Hanged himself from a tree after a Parisian dealer rejected his paintings. Threw himself on a ceremonial sword, then lingered for another 24 hours. Put on one of his finest suits and gassed himself. Driven to suicide by a patron who hated the sculpture of him. Shot herself a few weeks after the death of her lover. Gassed himself. Committed suicide in a psychotic fit, but not before killing his family. Stabbed himself with a dagger. Thought he'd lost one of the King's favorite miniatures. Jumped out of a window in Rome. Leapt to his death in New York City after having been there for one week - purely coincidental. Slit his wrist. "Fell" out of a window in Florence. Disemboweled himself with a butcher knife. Tightly sealed up a room and turned on the gas ring. His studio had burned, his wife had left him, his health was bad and he had no money. He hanged himself. Overdosed on barbiturates, and left notes about how it felt (for as long as he could, anyway). Drowned himself in the Seine. Shot himself, then cut his throat. Pregnant with their second child, she leapt from a third-story window two days after her partner died. One Friday the 13th he jumped off a bridge and backstroked away. Fairly certain she overdosed on painkillers, though the coroner's report read, "pulmonary embolism." Shot himself after the combination of illness and the termination of his career. Committed suicide in a psychiatric hospital. On leave from his position as war artist he did it in Vienna. Hanged himself in his New York studio. Shot himself in the head. Hanged himself in the doorway of his father's bedroom. Shot himself. Cut her throat with her ex-teacher's and ex-lover's razor. Took an overdose of Tuinal. Decided stabbing himself in the neck was preferable to being flogged to death. Hanged himself after the deaths of his wife and son. Killed himself in Venice, in front of his easel, on the 10th anniversary of his brother's suicide. Slit his wrists in his New York studio. Shot himself in the garden at his home in Islington. Jumped out of his studio window in Antibes. Shot himself through the heart with a pistol over the unrequited love of a wealthy patroness. Died, two days afterwards, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest - or he could have been shot accidentally by two boys. Chose to overdose, rather than live with bowel cancer, kidney disease and depression. Committed an honorable suicide after being under house arrest. Tied himself to his lover, fed her poison and slit his wrists. She regained consciousness. Him - no. Said to have drowned himself, after his body was discovered in a frozen canal. Forced to commit suicide. Stepped in front of a train.

Can't sleep because you MUST know the name of the artists? I understand. You can check it out here:


Exclusive: Art solves the world's financial problems...

So Detroit has gone bust owing $18 billion. Well, what happens when you go bust? Right. Someone takes control of what you have and sells your assets. And if you have billions of dollars worth of art? Right again - its flogged off. Detroit Institute of Arts has tens of thousands of juicy artworks. The top 40 of these could clear maybe 3 billion dollars on their own. Grab a Matisse, lever a Picasso off the walls, heave Rodin's "The Thinker" onto a truck - lets be having them - cry the debtors.
Let's face it. Detroit is a wasted, corrupt industrial area abandoned by the people who have fled in droves. So they don't need these gems - these billions of dollars worth of art, those owed the money argue. Call the cops when someone is trying to kill you - then you need to plan to settle down to fight them off for an hour before the cops roll up to check on you.
What about other cities in the US? Or the UK? Or Spain or Greece - the latter without tuppence to its name but billions upon billions worth of goodies. Let's be having their art then. Why not let the Chinese billionaires and the Brazilian industrialists or the Russian robber barons take the bloody things. Isn't feeding the kids and looking after the old and the vulnerable more important?
Then there will be oodles of space in the museums and art galleries. Acres of empty walls just waiting to be filled with the work of living, contemporary artists. The creative people who need support - the artists struggling to make a living in a world gone financially mad. And we'll need lots of people employed on this task. So that's unemployment sorted.


Mum torches art masterpieces to save son

Is it just me or have you too noticed that the world has gone "art-theft crazy." I mean, what do you do with stolen art by Picasso and the like. You can't hang them in your house. Surely your friends might mention the sudden appearance of a dazzling original Picasso in your hallway? You can't sell the bloody things either. Pssst. Excuse me. Wanna buy a Picasso? It's genuine - honest.
That leaves the old insurance scam. Sell them back to the insurance company for 10% of their value. The problem there is that doing that is like tattooing a sign on your forehead that says: "Look at me, I am the thief". Or you could just throw up the head and get your old mum to burn them.
And, apparently, that's just what has happened. The Guardian reports that "a Romanian museum is analysing ashes found in a stove to see if they are the remains of seven paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others that were stolen last year from the Netherlands. The ashes found in the stove of Olga Dogaru, mother of Radu Dogaru, one of three Romanian suspects charged with stealing the paintings from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery in a daytime heist.
It was the biggest art theft in more than a decade in the Netherlands. The stolen works have an estimated value of tens of millions of dollars if they were sold at auction.
Dogaru told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works. Chiru indicated that authorities did not necessarily believe Dogaru's account. She said it could take months for the results of the tests to be known.
Thieves broke into the museum on 16 October through a rear emergency exit, took the paintings from the wall and fled, all within two minutes.
The stolen paintings were: Picasso's 1971 Harlequin Head; Monet's 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London; Matisse's 1919 Reading Girl in White and Yellow; Paul Gauguin's 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window; Meyer de Haan's Self-Portrait, around 1890; and Lucian Freud's 2002 work Woman With Eyes Closed."
Full story: - the Guardian art section (one of the best reads for art lovers).