Three men were indicted Monday in the massive art scam that placed dozens of fake modern masters on the market and took down one of America's oldest art galleries. The 11-count indictment in Manhattan provided new details into how the forgeries were made, even while the forger himself has disappeared.
Chinese artist Pei Shen-Qian, 75, was charged for his part in the $33 million art forgery scheme. He crafted the "rediscovered" masterworks by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Sam Francis, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and others. He worked out of his home in Queens, but has since fled, possibly to China. Qian is accused of lying to the FBI.
Brothers Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz, 65, and Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, 58, were arrested last week in Spain. Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz was the former boyfriend of Glafira Rosales, the art dealer who supplied the fakes to now-defunct Knoedler & Co., and other galleries. She pleaded guilty to fraud, money laundering and other charges last summer and is cooperating with the FBI.
The indictment lays out how Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz had Qian create the artworks. Old paintings were bought at auctions and flea markets, and paint was acquired from the periods that the artists' worked. He also sourced Masonite from old furniture to replicate the preferred medium of some artists. A newer canvas would be stained with tea bags to look old.
Qian said last year to Bloomberg that he did not know his art was being sold as genuine, but was told they were for art lovers who could not afford an original. He also told invetigators that he had never heard of Glafira Rosales, and did not know the names of many of the artists who he allegedly forged. Qian's home was chock-full of books and auction catalogs about the artists he faked, say prosecutors.
Painstaking research was done to create fake provenances, or a history of ownership and background, for the forgeries. Rosales and the Bergantinos Diaz brothers uncovered detials about art dealers and collectors to help create a legitimate-sounding, but false story behind the pictures.
The two brothers were released on bail in Spain.
Qian made a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per picture while the brothers and Rosales generated tens of millions of dollars. Knoedler & Co. and another dealer turned the fakes over to clients for a profit of about $48 million.