Why is Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

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Published : 2016-06-21 17:59
Updated : 2016-06-21 17:59

Artist Lee U-fan will finally have a look at the paintings that the National Forensic Service confirmed as counterfeits of his works next Monday.

“We can’t conclude whether the paintings are forged or not since we haven’t seen them,” said Lee’s attorney Choi Soon-yong in a phone call with The Korea Herald.

Choi said Lee will then decide on when and how he will press charges against the art forgers — there are suspected to be several art forgers — and gallerists, who are accused of distributing the counterfeits.

One of the largest art forgery cases in Korea seems to be nearing its end as a 66-year-old art forger surnamed Hyun, who allegedly created fake works of Lee U-fan, was arrested in May and has been put on trial. All 13 works seized by police from galleries accused of distributing the counterfeits were confirmed to be fake.

Lee U-fan (Yonhap)

When Hyun was arrested, he admitted to having made some 50 replicas of paintings by Lee U-fan in 2012. Some of them were among the 13 seized paintings.

The biggest-ever art forgery case involving the acclaimed painter Lee prompted art experts and the Culture Ministry to discuss ways to solve the chronic problems that lead to continued art forgery.

“Art forgery scandals surface again and again because there’s no strict sentencing for art forgery,” said art appraiser Choi Myeong-yoon, at a seminar on measures to prevent art forgery held on June 9 in Seoul. The event was organized by the Culture Ministry.

The punishment for committing art forgery is relatively light compared to other crimes. But as the Korean art market expands and artworks by famous artists are treated as financial assets, there have been calls for stronger punishment for art forgers and those involved in distributing fake artworks.

“Since art forgers get light sentences, forgers make copies again once they are released and a new forgery scandal emerges,” said art critic Chung Joon-mo.

Hyun was convicted twice for copying artworks of Korean art masters in the past. He was accused of forging artist Chun Kyung-ja’s signature on a copied painting in 1991, and then of making counterfeits of traditional paintings in 1995.

Both times he was given suspended jail sentences on fraud charges.

“Measures that enhance policing of art forgery activities in the market are needed,” said Shin Eun-hyang, the director of the visual arts and design division of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Forged artworks seem to be on the rise in the last five years.

According to a figure from the Korean Art Appraisal Board, the percentage of fake works among the total artworks they were assigned to authenticate has increased from 34 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2015. There were 180 fake works among a total of 525 artworks appraised in 2011 and 236 fake works among 588 artworks appraised in 2015.

“From Point No. 780217” by Lee U-fan and its certificate of authenticity issued by the Galleries Association of Korea were confirmed to have been forged. (Yonhap)

Appraiser Choi Myeong-yoon said that the number of fake works that we know may be just a small part of what could be thousands of other fake artworks.

“I was assigned to authenticate some 3,000 artworks since 2005 until January this year by law enforcement agencies. All of them were fakes,” Choi said.

Unregulated art market

The sales of copied paintings of Lee U-fan started at a relatively unknown gallery in the art and tourist district of Insa-dong. The gallery owner was one of the many private art dealers who only trade artworks, not hold exhibitions. It is not listed with the Galleries Association of Korea, a group of 150 commercial galleries in Korea.

“The galleries which cause trouble are not members of the GAK. I believe we need a system that can enhance transparency of the art market,” said Park Woo-hong, the president of GAK and also president of Dong San Bang Gallery.

There are no special requirements that must be met to open an art gallery. Anyone who wants to open a gallery can start business after registering with the National Tax Service like any other businesses.

“Anyone can open their space for art trade under the name of gallery or auction. And art forgery persists and fakes are usually circulated by individual art dealers,” said Shin.

Art appraisal credibility

Artworks suspected as forged works are appraised at several private appraisal agencies and individual appraisers, including the Korean Art Appraisal Board, which handles the largest number of paintings. The credibility of art appraisal results are sometimes questioned as auction houses are involved in authenticating artworks consigned by their clients.

“Private art appraisal agencies currently enjoy autonomy in the appraisal process. It’s not known how many are in this business,” said Cho Hyun-seong of the visual arts and design division of the Culture Ministry.

Art experts discuss ways to improve transparency in the Korean art market and art appraisal credibility at a seminar organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on June 9 in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The lack of reliability of the current art appraisal system has led to calls for a public art appraisal institution, or licensing of private art appraisers.

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea appraised Chun Kyung-ja’s “Beautiful Women” painting as an original piece by the artist, but its authenticity is still being questioned by many people, including family members of Chun. The late artist, in her lifetime, insisted it was not her painting.

The Culture Ministry said it is in the process of gathering ideas from art experts before announcing in August actual measures aimed at preventing art forgery.

But some art experts voice concerns that measures to regulate the market will hinder the growth of the Korean art market.

“I don’t see any reason why the government should be in a hurry to come up with solutions. The Korean art market is still in its infancy with just 20 years of market activities. Regulations should take effect step by step,” said Seo Jin-su, an economics professor at Kangnam University, who studies art markets in Korea and Asia.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

Source: Why is Korean art market vulnerable to forgery?

June 23rd, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries

A house full of stolen antiques

The Idol Wing police in Tamil Nadu seize a treasure trove of antique idols stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka at the home of a “trader” in arts and artefacts, and in the process bust an international smuggling syndicate. By ILANGOVAN RAJASEKARAN

THE last thing that Govindaraj Deenadayalan would have wanted in his sunset years was to see the art business he had studiously built up collapsing. The octogenarian has seen many ups and downs in his six decades of trading in arts and artefacts, and even extricated himself nonchalantly from the most trying situations. But luck seemed to have deserted him in the last week of May when the police in Chennai, after a continuous watch on him, raided his house in an upscale locality, and eventually arrested him.

Sleuths of the Idol Wing CID of the Tamil Nadu Police’s Economic Offences Wing, led by Inspector General of Police (IG) Pon. Manickavel, raided Deenadayalan’s residence in Alwarpet in the heart of Chennai and a rented godown nearby on the basis of information that hoards of antique artefacts were stored there with no valid documents. In fact, the residence also housed a gallery, Aparna Art Gallery.

The raids and the investigations that followed unearthed an internationally well-knit smuggling unit that has been active for at least 50 years in Tamil Nadu, which has countless ancient temples that hold in them priceless antique pieces. Deenadayalan, 84, was, the Idol Wing police said on the basis of “credible” information, a vital link in the murky racket.

It was a tip-off to Pon. Manickavel from an informant about “some unusual activities” going on at Deenadayalan’s house and the godown in the wee hours that alerted the police to mount a surveillance on the two places. The specific information was that lorries bearing registration numbers of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra were frequenting the places either to deposit or transport huge wooden boxes.

Deenadayalan had actually put his trade on hold in an attempt to lie low after the arrest, in 2012, of international antiques dealer Subash Chandra Kapoor, said to be a client of his, on charges of smuggling. The arrest was made by the Pon. Manickavel-headed Idol Wing, and Kapoor is now being held in Puzhal prison near Chennai awaiting trial in a few idol theft cases.

Deenadayalan had also been cautious about his movements since then. He slipped out of Chennai to his native village in Kadapa district in Andhra Pradesh and then moved to Bengaluru where he once ran a gallery.

But the police continued to maintain a zealous vigil over his house in Chennai. Said Pon. Manickavel: “During the course of our investigation in Kapoor’s case, we chanced upon a vital link that drew us closer to Deenadayalan, who, we came to understand, was one of his suppliers in India. Further investigation revealed that he had a hand in the theft of the stone idol of Ardhanareeswarar from the ancient Siva temple in Vriddachalam in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu. The statue eventually landed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, through Kapoor.”

The thieves replaced the idol with a replica that even officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department of the Tamil Nadu government were unaware of. After a diligent matching of photographs and exchange of documents with the Australian authorities, it was ascertained that the idol in the Australian museum was the one that had been stolen from the Vriddachalam temple. The Ardhanareeswarar and a bronze idol of Nataraja (stolen from the Sri Brihadeeswarar temple at Sripuranthan in Udayarpalayam taluk in Ariyalur district) were returned to India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Australia in September 2014.

Investigations into Deenadayalan’s activities also showed that he was an accused in a case relating to a break-in at the ancient Sri Narum Poonathar Temple at Paluvoor village in Tirunelveli district in 2005; 13 bronze idols were stolen. He was able to secure bail, but an accomplice was murdered following a dispute over the sawing off of a portion of a two-and-a-half-foot (76 cm) tall bronze of Nataraja to extract the gold content from it. The trial in the case at the Srivilliputhur Magistrate court is in its last lap.

Pon. Manickavel said: “Since then the Chennai dealer [Deenadayalan] has been under our watch. Though he was aware that we were on his trail and though he camouflaged his activities by lying low for some time, pressure from buyers was too much for him to resist. As expected, it made him lower his guard thinking that we had slackened our surveillance. But we had been watching his every move closely. He could not transport his idols to buyers in Mumbai on time. He became desperate and then we struck.”

The police arrested three of his trusted workers, Rajamani (60), Kumar (60) and Mansingh (55), on May 31 and remanded them in custody. The raids and seizures began on the basis of the information the investigators got from them. The raids at his house and godown went on for three days from May 31 and threw up a virtual treasure trove that shocked and surprised the sleuths of the Idol Wing.

There were priceless antique sculptures in metal and in stone, besides innumerable other items presumably from temples in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

Deenadayalan performed a vanishing act and went underground. The Idol Wing pasted a “Notice of Appearance” at his house under Section 41A (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code and asked him to appear before the police with the relevant documents since they had “credible information” that he had “committed a cognisable offence”.

Deenadayalan was able to get anticipatory bail, but he presented himself before the Idol Wing Police in the first week of June, along with his counsel and his daughter, for the inquiry. The raids on his house and godown yielded about 200 artefacts, including 49 bronzes, 71 stone carvings and 96 rare paintings.

Many other ancient artefacts, such as miniature statues, massive stone Nandis, ivory and wood carvings, lamps, figurines, ornamental pillars, and pooja utensils, were also seized.

R. Nagasamy, former Director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department and a renowned iconographer, said many of the idols were 1,000 to 1,200 years old.

“They belong to the Chola and Hoysala dynasties, the former known for its intricate bronze works and the latter for blackstone and sandstone works. It is sad that these glories of the past have been plundered by the greedy from their pristine, sacred environment,” he said.

The IG, who is personally investigating the case, said they never expected such a huge haul of antiques from a private dealer.

“We were surprised at its [the seizure’s] magnitude. They have ripped off whole temples in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam areas, it seems,” he said. After seeing the paintings and idols, many temple officials and private mutts have started coming to the police to identify whether any of the seized pieces are those stolen from their places. Deenadayalan reportedly sold an original painting of Raja Ravi Varma for Rs.1 crore. “An idol stolen from a temple near Chinna Salem and a painting stolen from an ancient mutt have been identified. Cases are being filed,” said P.A. Sundaram, DSP, the Idol Wing Investigation Officer.

The bureaucracy’s wink-and-nod attitude to temple thefts emboldened the thieves and smugglers. The smugglers mixed the antique pieces with new metal idols to get export clearance from the Handicrafts Department of the Union Textiles Ministry as “objects of handicrafts”.

These clearance documents were presented to Customs officials at ports, mostly in Mumbai, for shipping the consignments abroad.

The same method was used to smuggle eight bronzes that were stolen from the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Sripuranthan village. The police report of this case (Vikramangalam Police Station, Crime Number 133/08 under Section 380 (2) of the Indian Penal Code) pointed out that the smugglers got the clearance certificates from the Handicrafts Department in Chennai. The law enforcers accord least priority to these “cultural thefts” and many feign ignorance about the provisions of The Antiquity and Art Treasures Act, 1972, that prohibits trading in antiquities at least 100 years old and also any item of antique value without the Archaeology Survey of India’s (ASI) clearance.

“Such serious crimes are treated as non-cognisable offences such as burglary, in which you get less punishment. Dealing with the theft of artefacts of antique value demands high technical expertise involving heavy documentation and verification procedures. The provenance of the pieces is to be proved before a court of law. It is a cumbersome exercise,” said Pon. Manickavel.

“In fact, anyone can walk into an unguarded and dilapidated ancient temple in a nondescript village, steal the antique sculptures, both stone and bronze, and other artefacts, find a middleman, label them as handicrafts with the connivance of officials and ship them out of the country through a well-connected pan-global syndicate of smugglers basically from Mumbai,” said Vijay Kumar, an independent blogger who is engaged with the India Pride Project (IPP) involving an international group of activists fighting against “culture trafficking” from India.

The Idol Wing faces many constraints while investigating a case of such serious dimensions. Inadequate manpower and infrastructure are bugbears.

“To investigate the high-profile cases of Kapoor and Deenadayalan, we need to have expert handling. In the U.S., sleuths of the Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Investigation, which investigate these cases, are trained in archaeology and antique assessment,” pointed out a senior police officer.

Legal loopholes

Any investigation into antique theft has been a daunting task for the investigators. “The law in India demands a case to be charge-sheeted in 60 days. How could one successfully conduct trials against the smugglers and illegal sellers when the investigation transcends the country’s borders? To determine whether the provenance documents of the stolen artefacts are fake, we need experts’ opinions. It is time-consuming,” Pon. Manickavel said.

Such bottlenecks in the course of an investigation invariably provide the accused a favourable environment to escape the law. This is especially so when documentary evidence is not available to prove that the artefacts belonged to a particular temple or place. The case of the antique trader Vaman Narayan Ghiya of Jaipur is a case in point, which proved that laws were inadequate to deal with illegal treasure sellers. He is said to have been a prolific antique smuggler in the 1980s, and a report claimed that he had stolen about 20,000 artefacts. He was arrested in 2003, only to be released by the Rajasthan High Court since the prosecutors could not prove his complicity in the crime in the absence of material evidence, since the stolen pieces could not be recovered from abroad. The ASI chose not to appeal against it. Many operators have escaped the law in this manner.

“For instance, priceless antique pieces have been stolen from various temples across Tamil Nadu. But, sadly, none of these stolen properties from our temples has any documentary proof of ownership and proof of provenance, though the HR and CE Department claims that it has started collecting and documenting the same now,” said Pon. Manickavel.

The smugglers and their agents were able to hoodwink the law by providing false provenance certificates for the stolen antiquities. Art lovers point out that the restitution of statues to their original sites is difficult because evidence is needed to show that the stolen pieces are from a particular temple.

But this time, the Idol Wing police have decided to plug these technical loopholes. In the Paluvoor case, in which Deenadayalan was also named, the IG filed a fresh affidavit under Section 173 (8) of the CrPC, asking the Srivilliputhur court to suspend the trial proceedings since the case was to be reopened for further investigation. “Similarly, I have had to take over the role of complainant in a case where the authorities in a temple from which the idols had been stolen denied any knowledge about them. This is the first time in the country that an officer in the rank of IGP has taken up the responsibility of being a complainant since the stolen idols belong to the country,” he said.

In the case of Kapoor, who owns a gallery called Art of the Past in Manhattan in New York, the police faced anxious moments before they arrested him (“The great Indian idol robbery”, Frontline, January 24, 2004). Realising the deficiencies in the prosecution system, the Idol Wing approached his case with methodical precision. Experts’ opinions were sought to identify the stolen artefacts by matching visuals of the same with photographic materials from the French Institute in Puducherry, the only agency that has a meticulous database of hundreds of antique properties of temples and other places of historical importance in Tamil Nadu and India.

All the pieces of documentary and photographic evidence were submitted to the authorities in the U.S., Australia and Germany to seek Kapoor’s extradition to India and his subsequent detention in Tamil Nadu, for which the Home Ministry had to be convinced to make the Interpol issue a Red Corner alert. “In fact, a detailed investigation that ran for months has effectively broken the strong criminal syndicate of Kapoor, his chief idol lifter Sanjeevan Ashokan, who was once detained under the Goondas’ Act in the Sripuranthan temple burglary, and Deenadayalan. They had carried out many successful business transactions. We are also pursuing other vital leads which Deenadayalan provided during the interrogation. This will enable us to unearth the entire secret network that has been functioning for years now,” the IG said.

The arrest of Kapoor at Frankfurt airport in Germany in 2012 turned the focus on the theft and smuggling of ancient treasures from India, and especially Tamil Nadu, and the illicit trade in them. In fact, according to a report in The New York Times, Kapoor’s loot alone could be worth Rs.66.71 billion in the international market. Another report points out that he could have stolen and smuggled about 2,600 artefacts out of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Cambodia. Pon. Manickavel said Kapoor’s Sofia Self Storage Facility in the U.S. was thought to be hoarding about 500 idols from India, especially Tamil Nadu, of which a mere 31 had been returned to the country so far. He said the U.S. authorities were yet to return two important stolen pieces from the Suthamalli temple near Ariyalur though “unimpeachable documentary evidence” was provided to them. “These two idols carry inscriptions of ‘Sudhavalli’ on their pedestals pointing to the Tamil Nadu connection,” he said. More than 50 galleries abroad still display stolen idols from India, he claimed. A study by the Drug and Crime wing of the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation says that illicit trafficking in stolen idols across the world is estimated to be worth $3.4-6.3 billion annually. India is a signatory to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property.

Pon. Manickavel said he was confident of breaking the backbone of this well-organised international black market in antique idols from temples in Tamil Nadu. He was also confident that museums and auction houses in India and abroad, especially those in the U.S. and Australia, now understood that they should no longer indulge in shady trade in stolen antiquities from India.

Source: A house full of stolen antiques

June 23rd, 2016

Posted In: Geen categorie

Connoisseur & Smuggler:The 84-year-old art dealer and his collection of ‘stolen’ idols in Chennai

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Published:June 20, 2016 1:00 am

tamil nadu, tamil nadu idol racket, chennail ancient idol smuggling, tamil nadu CID idol wing, Tanjore paintings, Tanjore paintings smuggling, indian ancient idol smuggling racket, chennai idol smuggling case, M Deendayal, M Deendayal idol smuggling acse, chennai news, india news, tamil nadu news, latest newsInvestigators now say Deendayal used to ship such items to the US and European countries.

Known as an art dealer, connoisseur and even an inspiration to contemporary artists, he was at the same time suspected to be an international smuggler but never caught for decades. By the time the net finally closed around him, M Deendayal was 84.

This was after the unearthing of a massive cache of ancient idols from his premises in Chennai. Searches by the Tamil Nadu CID’s idol wing in two godowns, a gallery and the residence of Deendayal have so far led to the recovery of over 254 ancient stone idols, 151 antique artworks on canvas and Tanjore paintings, 28 antique wooden artefacts, 54 metal idols including three huge ones and a small ivory statue. And the searches are still continuing, A G Pon Manichakvel, inspector general of police.

Investigators now say Deendayal used to ship such items to the US and European countries. He apparently packed them into containers and labelled those “Handicrafts”.

The racket is being seen as one of the biggest since the arrest in 2011 of Subhash Kapoor, a Manhattan art dealer now lodged at Chennai’s Puzhal Prison and facing trial.

Deendayal, who was absconding after the initial raids on his premises, surrendered on June 10 after the government impounded his passport. Officers said he hasn’t been registered as arrested as he is cooperating with the investigation.

The CID (idol wing) says it had no credible evidence against Deendayal earlier. The racket was busted on May 31 following the arrest of three persons from his premises, allegedly agents who sold stolen items in the Mumbai market. “Earlier tip-offs against Deendayal had all turned out to be false. But after the arrest of the three people, we deployed teams and started searches from June 1 with court warrants in his godowns and residence on Murray’s Gate Road,” said an officer.

“Deendayal has clients in Europe and many dealers in America,” the officer said. He added Deendayal was also selling idols to buyers in India, including a main dealer in Mumbai. “He sold a painting at Rs 1 crore to a Mumbai dealer. That, and another case registered against him in 2005, are being probed.”

S Vijaya Kumar, a Singapore-based private investigator said his team had been tracking Deendayal since 2004 as he was prime accused in an idol smuggling case and jumped bail, escaping to Bangkok before he resumed his business in Chennai again. Vijaya Kumar is a co-founder of India Pride Project, a group of NRIs that uses public and official networks to look for stolen Indian idols in various international museums.

As an art expert, Deendayal is also said to have inspired some of the finest. The late M Reddeppa Naidu, one South India’s leading painters, had said in interviews to The Indian Express in 1985 and to The Independent in 1990 that it was Deendayal who inspired his Mahabharata project, a series of paintings in 18 large canvases, one for each parva, and done between 1972 and 1974.

“Around June 1972, Deendayal read me a poem from the stree parva – Samsara Grahanam, which had been translated into Telugu from Sanskrit in the 3rd century AD by Nanayyabhatt. He requested me to do a painting based on it. I did one, which both he and his wife liked very much. Deendayal then suggested that I might like to do one for each parva,” recalled the painter, a national award winner and a student of veteran artist K C S Panicker.

It was Deendayal who first exhibited Naidu’s work at Ashoka Hotel in Delhi in 1974 and then at his Aparna Art Gallery, followed by a retrospective of his works in Madras.

One of his customers from the 1990s said Aparna Art Gallery, founded in 1983, was one of the top five sellers of Tanjore paintings in Madras during that period. “He used to sell more than 15 Tanjore paintings a month, and had an active clientele in Mumbai and Delhi too,” she said.

Besides Aparna Art Gallery in Chennai and two godowns on the street where he lived, two more galleries in Chennai and one in a Bangalore hotel, too, have now been sealed, police said.

“Deendayal is quite a big fish and possibly linked to Kapoor,” said a police officer. “We are probing his role in the smuggling of a stone idol of Ardhanarishwarar from Virudhagereeswarar temple in Virudhachalam (which was later sold for $3 million to an art gallery in New South Wales in 2004 by Kapoor, and later returned to India),” said an officer.

Vijaya Kumar of India Pride Project is widely credited with having played a key role in tracking Kapoor along with US and Indian agencies before his arrest from Frankfurt airport in 2011. Kumar said India is losing 10,000 major artefacts every decade and this doesn’t include smaller paintings, terracotta, coins, wooden temple cart parts, pillars and jewellery.

When Kapoor was finally caught in 2011 following a five-year-long operation by FBI and Indian agencies, what had been recovered from his godowns in Manhattan were some 2,600 items worth $100 million. In comparison, the raids in Chennai have unearthed some 500 items including stone, metal idols and antique paintings in the last two weeks.

On Friday, dozens of temple trustees and managers from south India flocked to Deendayal’s house to try and identify idols and paintings stolen from their premises. These included isols of Shiva in the form of Tripurantaka Murthy, Nardhana Ganapathi Devi, Sivagami Amman and Natarajar Asthiravedar.

R Nagaswamy, former director of Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department who accompanied the raid team, estimates that many idols were centuries old and estimated their value at several million rupees. Some items in black stone were over 900 years old.

A senior officer said Archaeological Survey of India experts have confirmed that many idols were more than 10 centuries old and had been stolen from temples in Kumbakonam, Myladuthurai, Tiruvarur and Tanjore districts of Tamil Nadu besides temples in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the last few years.

Source: Connoisseur & Smuggler:The 84-year-old art dealer and his collection of ‘stolen’ idols in Chennai

June 21st, 2016

Posted In: Geen categorie

13 of Lee U-fan’s paintings confirmed to be forged

Posted : 2016-06-03 16:53Updated : 2016-06-03 17:42
Lee U-fan’s “Point”

By Yun Suh-young

Police have confirmed that several of artist Lee U-fan’s works were forged.

The announcement on Thursday is based on the results of a National Forensic Service probe. Suspicions about the works arose in 2012.

Thirteen of Lee’s works _ four that were bought by private collectors, eight kept by distributors and sellers and one that was sold at a local auction _ have been confirmed as forgeries. The 13 pieces were compared with Lee’s six genuine works exhibited at local museums.

Lee is best known in Korea and overseas for his “dansaekhwa” series, or monochrome paintings. His works are also among the most expensive pieces by a Korean artist. His “From Line No. 760219” was sold for $2.16 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York in 2014. Last month, one of his “Wind” series sold for $922,000 at an auction in Hong Kong.

Police started their investigation in June last year after allegations that some of Lee’s forged works were being sold and distributed. Forged paintings of Lee’s “From Point” and “From Line” series were claimed to have been sold for billions of won in several galleries in Insa-dong between 2012 and 2013.

Last month, police arrested and investigated a man suspected of directing the forgery of Lee’s works. Police are investigating another artist for allegedly forging several of Lee’s paintings.

Lee, who said he knew nothing about the forgeries of his paintings when the claims were first made, said in January through a legal representative that if there are forged works purported to be his being sold, then he is the biggest victim of the scandal and would cooperate fully with any police investigation.

Lee is in France preparing for an exhibition. His attorney, Choi Soon-yong, said it was difficult for Lee to return to Korea immediately due to the exhibition but hoped the investigation would end soon so there would be no further speculation about Lee’s works and no further damage would occur.

The forgery confirmation is likely to spur further investigations. Claims have long been made that forgeries of the work of other famous artists, such as Chung Kyung-ja and Park Soo-geun, are also being traded.

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Source: 13 of Lee U-fan’s paintings confirmed to be forged

June 4th, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, vervalsing

Jail for woman who plundered famous photo prints

By Justine McDaniel


Bree DeStephano, 33, of York, was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in prison Thursday for stealing prints t from the award-winning Chester County photographer who snapped National Geographic’s famous Afghan Girl portrait.

A York County woman was sentenced to 9 to 23 months in prison Thursday for a mass art theft from the award-winning Chester County photographer who snapped National Geographic’s famous Afghan Girl portrait.

Bree DeStephano, 33, of York, pleaded guilty in April to three felony charges related to theft and conspiracy for stealing more than $650,000 worth of prints and books by Steve McCurry.

“This defendant engaged in a calculated, systemic theft from her trusted employer,” said Chester County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone. “Her actions affected Steve McCurry’s hard-earned reputation around the world as a premier photographer and artist.”

DeStephano also was ordered to pay nearly $215,000 in restitution, which will go to McCurry’s charity ImagineAsia, and was sentenced to 10 years of probation following her prison time.

She may serve her jail sentence in York County, where she lives and works, and will be eligible for work release. She is an office manager at a law firm in York County, said Dan Bush, her attorney.

“From the beginning of this matter, Ms. DeStephano admitted to her actions and was apologetic for them,” Bush said. “While harsh, the Court’s sentence acknowledges both of those [things] and permits her to maintain the career that she has fought hard to develop since admitting her wrongdoings.”

DeStephano was accused in June 2015 of working with a Colorado art dealer to sell McCurry’s prints and split the profits while she was a manager at the photographer’s Exton studio.

The thefts included nine or 10 stolen prints of Afghan Girl, most of them valued at $12,500; one $50,000 print, and more than 200 books of McCurry’s work. Afghan Girl, which appeared on the cover of National Geographic in June 1985, was an iconic portrait of a young, green-eyed refugee in Pakistan.

Authorities last year said DeStephano and her accomplice made somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 by reselling the stolen work. She claimed she made $34,000, Noone said.

McCurry’s photos from across the globe are regularly printed in National Geographic and other major magazines around the world.




Source: Jail for woman who plundered famous photo prints

June 3rd, 2016

Posted In: insider theft, interne diefstal

‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

Richard Polsky. Photo: Bill Kane

Last October Richard Polsky, the San Francisco art dealer who wrote I Bought Andy Warhol (2003), started an authentication service for the artist’s works, driven by the dissolution of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ authentication committee four years earlier. Now, Polsky has announced that he is taking on authentication of works by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The Art Newspaper: There are some collecting fields, such as sports memorabilia, where fakes are said to outnumber the real thing. Can you give us a rough idea of what percentage of Warhols on the market are suspicious?
Richard Polsky: In terms of what I’m seeing for authentication, it’s probably 60/40 in favour of fakes. In terms of what you see at galleries, it’s probably more like 10% fakes. Warhol has never been bigger, and if you are a serious blue-chip collector, you need a Warhol. As the prices go up, more fakes appear.

What about Haring and Basquiat?
There’s a much higher percentage with Haring. I would say Haring is [number] one, Basquiat, two and Warhol three in terms of volume of fakes. Haring was extremely prolific—the subway drawings, for example—he said he did thousands over the course of three years. The other thing is that Haring could do a sketch of a barking dog or radiant baby in just a couple minutes—imagine how easy that is to fake.

Are there any particularly memorable fakes that you’ve seen so far?
A man from North Carolina called me and said he bought a wooden carving of a cat at a flea market, signed on the bottom “Andy Warhol.” I started laughing because Andy really didn’t do things like that. In that case, I didn’t even get involved.

How important are signatures with these artists?
I would say they are not crucial with any of them. With Warhol his assistants signed pieces, his mother signed pieces, Ivan Karp [a Pop art dealer] signed pieces. What is crucial is what the work looks like, what material was used and obviously the back story, which includes information about the artist’s intent. Is this a work that Warhol wanted to be public, or something a friend fished out of the trash?

What giveaways betray works as fake Harings or Basquiats?
With an authentic Haring what you’re looking for is an unbroken line. He was a savant of some sort: he could start a drawing on the left side of the canvas and keep going. If you see a “Haring” drawing where it looks like a line has been erased or reworked, it’s probably not a Haring. For Basquiat you can usually tell a forgery because it won’t have his spontaneity—the composition will look too perfect.

Given the current climate of fear over authentication, aren’t you afraid of being sued?
That was the first question from my colleagues: half of them thought I was a genius, the other half thought I was an idiot. The answer is no. If you go back to the Warhol authentication board, a collector had to give them permission to rubber stamp in ink the word “Denied” on the back of the artwork. If you got the stamp, you were screwed, and if you asked them why, they wouldn’t tell you.
I believe in being transparent. If I turn down your painting you get a two-page letter from me outlining why. You might be bummed out, but being treated fairly tends to reduce anger. Of course I also have a lawyer and a disclaimer. And there’s just not as much financial incentive to sue me. There’s a difference between suing an estate worth hundreds of millions and suing an individual.

I can’t imagine that your authentication carries as much weight as the estates did though?
Not yet, that’s correct. I tell potential clients since we’re relatively new, I think an authentication letter from me will be helpful in private transactions. Nobody has tested the auction waters yet, but I think this is coming.

Source: ‘Imagine how easy Keith Haring is to fake’

June 3rd, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, vervalsing