• gerard van weyenbergh

Exhibition fake Basquiat works, part 2

On the trail of the mysterious "David Rosen" .

We then explored David Rosen's trail, the American who allegedly bought these designs from Basquiat himself at the Mudd Club. The artist actually came there with Gray, his noise music group. We met Keith Haring, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, the writer William S. Burroughs, and Debbie Harry, the singer of Blondie, who bought Basquiat his very first painting. No one can dispute that Basquiat sometimes sold his works in this club without signing them.

However, the problem is this David Rosen is unknown in the art world, and his name sows confusion with an actor and loyal friend of Basquiat, who is called Danny Rosen. In Rochester, we were able to identify a dentist named David Rosen. He didn't respond to our interview requests, but his secretary told us he had nothing to do with Basquiat. Another David Rosen who runs a gallery in Miami doesn't collect Basquiat. The State of Jean-Michel Basquiat (his official succession) has not answered us on this subject. And no one in the art world has heard of a David Rosen owning many Basquiat designs.

We asked Fred Hoffman, who worked with Jean-Michel Basquiat, and who was part of his authentication committee. When we asked him what he thought of these 89 drawings acquired by a certain David Rosen, he replied: " The fact that someone has 89 drawings which have never been seen, is enough to answer the question. "

Unable to authenticate a work by Basquiat?

The problem is that no one is authorized to certify a work by Basquiat. His authentication committee was dissolved in 2012. Too many lawsuits were brought against the committee when they explained to the owner of a work that it was fake. The Foundation was losing too much money. This absence of an authentication committee, therefore, offered a space of freedom to counterfeiters. If it is very difficult to deceive the public with paintings by Basquiat, because there is an official catalog raisonné listing almost all of the works, no such tcatalog exists for the drawings. Numerous fake swarms like this on the Internet.

What are the police and the courts doing?

It is, therefore, difficult to go further. The Dijon prosecutor's office did not consider it useful to take up the case. The OCBC, the Central Office for the fight against trafficking in cultural property, was not referred. No complaint was lodged. And entry into the exhibition was free. A catalog sold for 18 euros was indeed published during the exhibition, and if it is fake, the public has been deceived but these reasons seem to have been deemed insufficient for justice to open an investigation.

As for gallery owners and collectors, they could be entitled to take legal action. Anything wrong in fact undermines Basquiat's work. But the art world prefers to avoid spreading the word about it. " Too much talk of fake weakens the market, explains Pierre Lautier, copyright lawyer. The art world prefers to continue to work calmly without making waves, because too many fakes or stories of fake, can cool down collectors. "


The verdict of the forgers.

As a last resort, we showed these drawings to illustrious forgers. First of them: Guy Ribes, the most famous French counterfeiter who was sentenced to prison for fakes so successful that experts had authenticated them. With his Simenon look and his legendary pipe, he receives us in front of the trendy cubist canvas he is finishing. When we show him the drawings, his verdict is final: " For me, Basquiat is a soul, and when I see these drawings, there is no soul. It would surprise me that Basquiat had could do dozens of drawings like that. It's heavy, it's not spontaneous. It's not good. If I were asked if they were authentic, I would say no. "

Across the Atlantic, we contacted another top-flight forger. Alfredo Martinez, sentenced to five years in prison for selling fake Basquiat. His verdict is more nuanced: " I know someone who made a lot of money by recovering drawings that Basquiat had decided to throw in the trash of his workshop. You must not confuse a bad Basquiat and a fake Basquiat ", he tells us.

Therefore there is room for doubt. We asked Dominique Viano, if he felt like a victim or a crook? " For now, I do not feel especially crook; he replied with some embarrassment. A word like this is very violent. The day a complaint is filed, we will show all the papers. "

The exhibition was interrupted. Officially because of the Covid-19. The questionable drawings were taken from the gallery. They joined the shadow of their safe, taking their secret with them.

© France Culture