• gerard van weyenbergh

Fake Rothko and Pollock, $ 80M scam.

Accused of having played a more than active role in selling 80 million dollars of fake paintings by the famous Knoedler gallery in New York, José Carlos Bergantinos Diaz admitted that he had spotted Pei Shan Qian a Chinese painter living in Queen's. Qian had no equal in copying modern masters like Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock but denied having asked for it to produce plagiarism.

Refugee in Spain, Bergantinos Diaz, 64, blamed the merchant Glafira Rosales, who had sold several fakes through the Knoedler gallery, saying that he had come very far from having his ambition.

For her part, Glafira, 63, who had admitted her guilt on nine charges in 2013, had told investigators that Diaz had constantly blackmailed her into continuing selling fakes. Still, American justice did not succeed in having him extradited from Spain until now when the scandal had been such that the Knoedler gallery had to close its doors after 165 years of activity.

Diaz took advantage of a filmed report on the case to claim that he made the mistake of trusting Rosales and that she lied when she said he was blackmailing her. "I forgive her, especially since she is the mother of my daughter, and I wish her the best in the future," he said at his home in Lugo, adding that he had met Rosales in Mexico City. When they moved to New York, they were impressed by the art prices and decided to open a gallery in the Chelsea district and make money easily.

Devoured with ambition, Rosales would have led him to have Qian produce fakes that fool many experts. In the meantime, the American federal authorities remained convinced that Bergantinos Diaz had recruited the forger while aging the canvases he provided him by then transferring large sums of money in Spain from the sale of plagiarism to his profit.

Bergantinos Diaz had met Qian at the Art Students League in New York when he saw that he was a hyper-gifted copyist before buying him paintings, but he claimed that his main client was Rosales, who suggested what to invent. He added that he had played no role in the latter's collaboration with the Knoedler Gallery. He had never met Ann Freedman, its director, ignoring that his partner was selling him plagiarism of Qian because he had set up its own independent network.

Reached in Shanghai, Qian said he never knew his fakes were sold to the Ann Freedman Gallery, which said she always believed the works donated by Rosales were genuine before take cognizance of the latter's confession. However, it seems more than likely that Bergantinos Diaz tried to minimize his role in this affair by not refraining from accusing his ex-girlfriend. © Adrian Darmon