Police Arrest a Florida Art Dealer for Peddling Fakes After He Tried to Pass Off a $495 Print as a $12 Million Basquiat
Daniel Elie Bouaziz faces four charges in connection to an alleged art forgery scam he was running out of his Palm Beach art gallery.
Florida art dealer Daniel Elie Bouaziz has been charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering for allegedly selling fake works attributed to such big names as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Banksy, Henri Matisse, Keith Haring, and Roy Lichtenstein.
News of Bouraziz’s alleged illegal activities first came to light when the FBI raided one of his Palm Beach galleries, Danieli Fine Art, in December. He also owns Galerie Danieli; both businesses are located on Worth Avenue, which has become a hot spot for prestigious international art galleries in the wealthy Florida enclave.
Galerie Danieli stood out from its white-cube, blue-chip neighbors. It was decorated with velvet ropes, a red carpet, and over-the-top crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Art was hung salon-style alongside large television monitors displaying NFT drops.
When Artnet News visited in December, just days ahead of the raid, a gallery employee sternly reprimanded us for taking photographs.
Authorities believe many of the forgeries are cheap reproductions with fake seals of authenticity—like a “Basquiat” that Bouaziz stands accused of having bought on LiveAuctioneers for $495 before flipping it to an undercover FBI agent for $12 million.
“Provenance is father of Basquiat so there is not really a conversation about it,” Bouaziz reportedly assured the buyer. According to the FBI, a former member of Basquiat’s now-defunct authentication committee identified the work as a fake. The work was part of a collection that included cheap imitations of Banksy, Haring, and Georgia O’Keeffe on offer for $22 million.
Bouaziz is said to have similarly sold a €450 ($485) Lichtenstein print to an undercover agent for $25,000. Investigators found it had different colors than the real version included in the artist’s catalogue raisonné.
The Algeria-born, French art dealer also tried to entice an agent to buy a purported George Rodrigue painting, Blue Dog, claiming it came from a Palm Beach collector: “Not much to say. It’s just a beauty,” Bouaziz is quoted as saying in the complaint. He originally bought it for $140, but was offering it for $48,000, authorities said.
One of Bouaziz’s alleged victims spent $85,000 on a $100 Warhol reproduction presented as the real deal, according to the criminal complaint. Another thought he had snagged a Lichtenstein, a Matisse, and a Warhol for $290,000—until a New York gallery director warned him this “Holy Grail” was “too good to be true.”
To pass off the knock-offs as originals, Bouaziz is believed to have forged signatures and provided false provenance documents.
Eventually, some of Bouaziz’s unsatisfied clients started demanding their money back.
“Other victims, who also reported concerns to Bouaziz about the authenticity of their purchased work, both before and after the execution of the gallery search warrants, received some repayment from Bouaziz,” the lawsuit says.
Bouaziz appeared in West Palm Beach court on Friday, and was released on $500,000 bail. He has yet to enter a plea.
Each of the four charges Bouaziz faces could lead up to 20 years behind bars and a fine of $250,000 to $500,000. Artnet News was unable to reach the gallery for comment.
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