Art Dealer to the Stars Goes to Prison After Swindling His A-List Clients for Nearly 30 Years

Jonathan Poole was a dealer for high-profile clients that included musicians Miles Davis, John Lennon, and the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood.

Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Jonathan Poole.
Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Jonathan Poole.

It’s four years behind bars for British art dealer Jonathan Poole, who pled guilty to 26 charges of fraud and theft. The 69-year-old, who specialized in selling artwork for celebrity musicians, confessed to stealing both art and money from his high-profile clients for nearly three decades, between 1986 and 2013.

Among Poole’s notable victims was Ronnie Wood, guitarist for the Rolling Stones and a prolific painter who studied at London’s Ealing Art College and will publish a book, Ronnie Wood: Artist, next month. Poole poached a number of Wood’s portraits, featuring fellow celebrities such as Stones frontman Mick Jagger, musicians Bob Dylan, and Ringo Starr, and actress Marilyn Monroe, according to Reuters,

Rolling Stones British guitarist Ronnie Wood poses in front of his painting called <em>A Study of Carlos and Darcey Rehearsing</em> in 2008. Courtesy of Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images.

Rolling Stones British guitarist Ronnie Wood poses in front of his painting called A Study of Carlos and Darcey Rehearsing in 2008. Courtesy of Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images.

Poole also represented the estates of jazz musician and artist Miles Davis and musician John Lennon. He admitted to stealing works by the former Beatle, as well as works by contemporary German artist Sebastian Krüger and 19th-century French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Most of the stolen pieces depicted celebrities. In some of his scams, he also took a larger percentage than he was due from some of his art sales.

Altogether, Poole, who worked out of two galleries in the Cotswolds in rural south central England, is said to have earned over £500,000 ($664,000) from his illicit dealings. He told the court his business had faced financial difficulties due to Internet competition. Poole was sentenced on Tuesday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

Sebastian Krüger's painting of Kate Moss was stolen by Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Sebastian Krüger.

Sebastian Krüger’s painting of Kate Moss was stolen by Jonathan Poole. Courtesy of Sebastian Krüger.

According to the Guardian, prosecutor James Ward compared Poole’s crimes to the 1999 film The Thomas Crown Affair at trial. “[B]oth Thomas Crown and Jonathan Poole stole the paintings in broad daylight,” he said. “Whilst Thomas Crown stole as a challenge because his world had become too safe, Jonathan Poole stole either to fund a gambling habit, or to stash away money for later life.”

Poole isn’t the only art world professional to run into legal trouble with his celebrity clients. In New York, the case between art advisor Darlene Lutz and her former client, pop star Madonna, is currently awaiting a hearing. The singer claims that a planned auction of her personal effects featured objects that were stolen from her by Lutz.


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