a blog about beautiful things
Big story in the media this week involving Spanish dealer Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, arrested a few days ago in nearby Seville. The NYT says he led “collectors to spend more than $80 million on dozens of fake masterworks by painters including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell.” The artwork was created by Chinese immigrant artist Pei-Shen Qian in his Queens, NY home. This story reminds me of the Beltracchi affair which was also a fraud worth tens of millions.
I’ve never been brave enough to enter the world of modern art sales in any serious way (except the occasional sculpture, as they’re much harder to fake). It frightens the hell out of me. Unless everything is extremely well documented, it’s difficult (to my eye) to be sure, really sure. I was once asked to handle the authentication and sale of a Hernández Mompó. One of those artists that does squiggly colourful work (in the vein of Miro). I went into absolute panic. The very kind owner of the now defunct Galeria Juan Gris in Madrid helped me out by sourcing the original exhibition catalogue which included the work. They also handled the sale for me.
I basically did nothing but carry the painting on my lap, on a train to Madrid, scared to death I might be robbed along the way. I was only 22 or 23. That’s the recklessness of youth. I was 100% certain I could do anything! In retrospect those early days were hilarious. How do you contact an auction house or gallery? Who do you contact? How do you get good photographs? I stumbled left and right and got exasperated regularly. Everything seemed like an uphill battle- which, I suppose, is how it has to feel before you learn how to do things.