A Spanish Collector Has Been Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Attempting to Sell Forgeries of Works by Munch, Lichtenstein, and Others

The man was caught out by another collector who had accidentally bought fake works from him in the past.

Edvard Munch, Geschrei (The Scream), 1895. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art. Rosenwald Collection 1943.3.9037
Edvard Munch, Geschrei (The Scream), 1895. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art. Rosenwald Collection 1943.3.9037

A Spanish art collector has been sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Madrid for forging and attempting to sell 15 artworks, including a copy of the diptych Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein, a lithograph falsely attributed to Edvard Munch, and seven works by the sculptor and engraver Eduardo Chillida. The events of the trial were reported in the Guardian.

Guillermo Chamorro (identified in court as Guillermo CT), aged 67, had been charged with intellectual property theft and fraud, with the prosecutor’s office seeking a six-and-a-half-year sentence. The court found that he had consigned 16 artworks overall to Setdart auction house in Madrid in January 2018, but it was later revealed that 15 of these were fraudulent.

Luckily, one wronged Austrian collector Tomas Weber had reason to keep his eye on the defendant. In January, Weber told El Paīs that he had previously bought a lithograph from Chillida at Hampel auction house in Munich before learning it was a forgery. In March 2019, he apparently called the consignor Chamorro asking him to refund the €3,900 ($4,140) purchase.

When Weber later saw more works from Chamorro’s collection listed on Setdart, he warned the authorities that they might also be fake.

Also among the forgeries consigned by the defendant are four lithographs by the Spanish abstract expressionist José Guerrero and another by Saul Steinberg. Only one work attributed to David Hockney was genuine.

The trial sought to determine whether the defendant himself had known that these works were fake, with the decisive factor against him being that the incident was not isolated since he had already previously been investigated for consigning fake works by Chillida.

“Nevertheless, despite the defendant knowing that the works were very probably forgeries, that did not stop him then depositing them for sale at Setdart,” it was decided.

In addition to a four-year prison sentence, Chamorro must pay back the buyers of the fake works and pay damages of €48,000 ($51,000) to the heirs of José Guerrero and €39,700 ($42,189) to the company that manages Chillida’s estate.

Setdart auction house did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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