… more shocked, as I am the central victim.” That is the amazing statement made by ex-Knoedler director Ann Freedman in the lede of an article in New York by James Panero.
Panero, executive editor of The New Criterion, nailed down an exclusive interview “earlier this month,” he says. After that statement above from Freedman, came this one: “Fifteen years. In my head, these paintings have been right up until five days ago. Horrible.” That was five days after the federal government handed up a revised indictment of Glafira Rosales, charging her with tax evasion and laying out the fraud.
Freedman, who spoke publicly about the scandal for the first time in a series of recent conversations with New York, says that the results of the federal investigation prove she was an unwitting agent in the scheme. Under her leadership, Knoedler sold 40 of the fakes for an alleged $63 million. Before shutting down abruptly in late 2011, the gallery made a $20 million payment to Rosales.
Saying Rosales’s story about the paintings origins was “credible,” Freedman explained: “Dealers often do not know the specifics of origin or background, or how the art left the artist’s studio. You cannot turn the pages of an auction catalogue or museum publication without seeing a majority of the works labeled ‘private collection.’ The chain of ownership is often out of order and incomplete.”
Freedman says that she did her best to get answers from Rosales. “I went to Glafira and pushed and pushed to get more information, relentlessly,” Freedman said. “My ongoing diligence met more than the gold standard; there is plenty of evidence of that.”
Speaking with Daily Intelligencer last month, Freedman listed some markers that led her to believe that the paintings were genuine. “They were very credible in so many respects,” says Freedman. “I had the best conservation studio examine them. One of the Rothkos had a Sgroi stretcher. He made the stretchers for Rothko. They clearly had the right materials. I got a consensus. Some of the paintings were featured on museum walls,” she continued. “The Rothko went to the Beyeler [Foundation], and the Newman went to Guggenheim Bilbao for the tenth anniversary exhibition. The most knowledgeable in the art establishment gave me no reason to doubt the paintings.”
How you feel about the rest of the article depends on whether or not you believe Freedman. Panero cites a dealer who doesn’t believe she did enough due diligence, and let’s her explain that she placed the paintings with the best collectors to give the works credence. She bought three herself.
I still have a nagging question; Knoedler sold 40 allegedly fraudulent works for $63 million. But she paid much, much less to Rosales. How does she explain that gap? Rosales knew what she had. How did Freedman get such giant markups without doing additional research, conservation, or any of the other things that allow dealers to double and triple the prices they charge?
Photo credit: Courtesy of New York