Documentary Takes a Deep Dive Into the $80 Million Knoedler Art Scandal

  • April 29, 2020 13:40

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A supposed Robert Motherwell “Elegy” painting sold by Knoedler to an Irish gallery that demanded a refund.

Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art, a new documentary, spins the real-life tale of con artists, a forger, a prominent art gallery, art experts, and top collectors involved in one of the biggest U.S. art crimes ever. 

If it seemed stranger than fiction when the news broke, the sordid account surrounding the downfall of Knoedler, America's oldest art gallery, remains hard to comprehend even after multiple lawsuits and the new documentary. One confounding sticky point: the doo-doo diligence on provenance. A mysterious Mr. X in Switzerland (or the Phillipines) it seems was a credible source of previously unknown masterworks.

The over $80 million in abstract expressionist fakes that New York’s Knoedler & Co. passed off to clients as the real deal is a known scam, but who was actually fooled and who knowingly contributed to the web of lies is as murky as ever.

Toronto filmmaker Barry Avrich took two years to research the scandal and conduct interviews, notably with former gallery president Ann Freedman on camera, saying what she would have said in court, presumably.

"I believed the paintings were absolutely real," Freedman says, of course. Hear her take on events and the others involved: See the trailer.

Tags: american art

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