BARRY AVRICH’s latest effort will look at grifters playing fast and loose with the high-stakes art world

Last Updated: March 11, 2019By Tags:

Melbar Entertainment Group announced that production has begun on the feature documentary about the infamous Knoedler Gallery art scandal, one that involved one of the largest art forgeries in history. Over sixty forged abstract expressionists works of art sold to high society collectors and prestigious art institutions for over $80 million in total. The film will be completed in late 2019. The fully-financed documentary-feature will be directed by prolific veteran filmmaker Barry Avrich (“The last mogul,” “The Reckoning,” “Blurred Lines” and “Prosecuting Evil”).

Ann Freedman, flanked by her lawyers, going to court

This new film explores the interconnectedness of the American art world ecosystem, exposing its vulnerabilities. For the first time, Avrich’s thriller-like film will connect the dots, revealing how a deeply-troubled art scandal shook the world of art collecting. M Knoedler & Co was an art dealership in New York City founded in 1846. When it closed in 2011, amid lawsuits resulting from accusations of fraud, it was one of the oldest commercial art galleries in the U.S.. The gallery’s president, Ann Freedman, resigned in October 2009, amid rumours of problems with forged paintings supplied to the gallery by Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales. It was later discovered that between 1994 and 2011, the gallery had sold forged works of Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, among others. Freedman had purchased the paintings for Knoedler from Rosales, who had in turn obtained the forgeries from the art forger Pei-Shen Quian. Quian had reportedly painted the forgeries in a garage in Queens, New York. He is reported to have received a few thousand dollars for each painting from Rosales, while Rosales sold the paintings for millions of dollars each to Knoedler.

While Rosales initially denied claims of fraud, in 2013, she pleaded guilty to selling over sixty fake works of art to two New York art galleries, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and tax evasion. Spanish art dealer Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz (Ms. Rosales’s boyfriend) and his brother Jesus Angel Bergantiños Diaz were also indicted in US District Court for the fraud. While the Diaz brothers were arrested in Spain, the art forger who painted the fakes, Pei-Shen Qian, was indicted but avoided prosecution after fleeing to China.

Avrich, a documentary filmmaker with a knack for the sleazier side of big-power games, has shot over forty documentaries and is known for provocative exposes of Hollywood brokers such as Lew Wasserman, Harvey Weinstein, publishing head Bob Guccione, Vanity Fair provocateur Dominick Dunne and reclusive Rolling Stones promoter Michael Cohl. In 2016, Avrich released his best-selling memoir, “Moguls, Monsters and Men.”