Art fraudster Salander sentenced to up to 18 years

  • August 03, 2010 15:26

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Studio of El Greco's "Agony in the Garden" was sold through Christie's in June.

Bankrupt Manhattan art dealer Lawrence Salander, 61, was sentenced to 6 to 18 years in prison for grand larceny and fraud by a New York court on Tuesday. Salander, who was arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty to swindling clients out of $120 million.

Salander-O’Reilly Galleries filed for bankruptcy in 2007 after a series of lawsuits. Prosecutors say Salander funded a lavish lifestyle and tried to corner the Renaissance art market through his cons.

Consignors, investors, and businesses who lost assets with Salander have not received any restitution from Salandar personally so far. Some creditors have or will receive proceeds from auctions of his gallery inventory and home contents as well as the sales of his homes.

Stair Galleries sold many of his furnishings in May for just over a half million dollars. Christie's auctioned European art and sculpture from the gallery for $2.1 million in June, including a painting of a kneeling Jesus attributed to the studio of El Greco which sold for $386,500. The sell-through rate was a soft 60%.

One of Salander's scams was to sell more than 100% stakes in paintings. He also sold works without ever paying consignors. And, perhaps most grievous, some artwork handled by the gallery is deemed missing.

Among those who lost artwork through Salander was Earl Davis, the son of American modernist Stuart Davis, who claims ninety works by his father, valued at $18 million, are missing, according to prosecutors.

Salander's dubious dealings presents a long list of victims including, among others, actor Robert De Niro, who consigned his father's artwork to Salander; tennis pro John McEnroe; Renaissance Art Investors; one of the Beastie Boys' moms, the collector Hester Diamond; hedge-fund manager Roy Lennox; Gerald Peters Gallery; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has in turn sued AXA Art Insurance for a $1.5 million loss on Maurice Prendergast and Arthur B. Davies paintings.

ARTnews covers the resulting lawsuits and mutliple claims on artworks due to Salander's tangled web of fractional ownerships. "Some victims have abandoned their recovery efforts, noting that the legal costs would almost certainly outweigh any funds or assets they might recoup," writes Eileen Kinsella.


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