• gerard van weyenbergh

Donald Henkel, genius forger, caught by FBI.

The FBI raided the Michigan home of artist Donald "DB" Henkel on suspicion of plagiarism in the field of painting and sports memorabilia.

The 60-year-old Henkel is said to have produced in his house and outbuildings near Traverse City fake works by artists unknown in Europe but prized in the United States, notably Surrealist Gertrude Abercrombie and precision stylists, such as Ralston Crawford or George Copeland Ault. He also allegedly counterfeited sports equipment used by baseball legends Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Lou Gehrig.

This forger would have started his activity from March 2016 by distributing eight paintings, including five by Ault, two by Crawford, and one by Abercrombie, according to the arrest warrant issued by the FBI.

Among its victims is the Hirshl & Adler Gallery, which had spent $ 709,000 to acquire two magnificent supposed works by Ault during auctions organized by the Leslie Hindman house in Chicago in 2018 and 2019.

Suspected of having accomplices in California, Florida, and Virginia, Henkel would also have produced false drawings of Walt Disney, paintings not yet completed, and baseball bats or balls used by legends of this sport.

By selling Crawford's Smith Silo for $ 395,000 at Hindman's in May 2016, and on which he had received $ 299,000 net, Henkel claimed that the artist had offered this work to Henry Holtz, Dean of the Academy of Pennsylvania fine art.

In March 2019, he sold at Abercrombie Hindman canvas titled "Coming Home" for 93,750 dollars, the second-best price ever paid at auction for the artist. As for the fake works of Ault bought by the Hirschl & Adler Gallery, respectively, "Morning in Brooklyn" and "Stacks Up 1st ave", these had been auctioned for 336,000 dollars and 372,500 dollars, very substantial bids for the artist.

Henkel was caught when a buyer tried to determine why Ault's work, "The Homestead" was not listed in the archives. In August 2017, a conservator examined the painting purchased for $ 200,000 and found that some pigments, including a Hansa yellow and acrylic, were recent and unused in 1938, when it was believed to have been produced.

Henkel also sold an alleged baseball bat wielded by Babe Ruth for $ 60,000, and another allegedly used by Lou Gehrig auctioned for $ 120,000 by the Hunt auction house in Pennsylvania.

© Le Journal d'un fou d'art by Adrian Darmon @ artcult.com