Top 13 Art World Jailbirds

With the Knoedler indictment, we recall top art world figures who did time for crime.

Art dealer Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz and his brother were arrested in Southern Spain and charged in connection with the Knoedler forgery scandal. U.S. prosecutors are seeking their extradition to the U.S.
Lawrence Salander with his former wife Julie. Photo - PATRICK MCMULLAN /

Lawrence Salander with his ex-wife Julie.
Photo: Patrick McMullan/

1. Lawrence Salander
Once upon a time, the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries were considered among the top galleries in the world. However, by 2007, Salander had racked up lawsuits from numerous customers and business partners who claimed that the company had defrauded them—one such lawsuit described the gallery as “nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.” In 2010, “the art world’s Bernie Madoff” was sentenced to 6 to 18 years in prison for his crimes, and is currently imprisoned.

2. Glafira Rosales
Rosales took part in a 15-year scam that fooled customers into buying more than $80 million of counterfeits imitating famous artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Rosales sold the fakes to the Knoedler Gallery, as well as Julian Weissman Fine Art. In 2013, she pleaded guilty to nine counts, including wire fraud, filing false tax returns and money laundering. While she has not yet been sentenced, she currently faces up to 20 years in prison.

Peter Brant in 2014. Photo:  J Grassi/

Peter Brant in 2014.
Photo: J Grassi/

3. Peter Brant
The art collector, publishing magnate and former husband of supermodel Stephanie Seymour pleaded guilty to federal tax violations and served 84 days in jail in the 1990s.

4. Robert Preiss
The Sarasota art dealer sold Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Fabergé Eggs through his gallery in St. Armands Circle. In 2011, he was sentenced to two years in prison after several clients reported both missed payments and missing works of art.

5. David Stein
An art forger and dealer with 15 aliases, Stein ripped off artists including Chagall, Matisse, Braque, Klee, Miró, Jean Cocteau, and Georges Rouault. In 1967, Marc Chagall notified authorities of forgeries of his work hanging in a New York gallery, and Stein was arrested. He was deported to France where he continued to make forgeries and also served time.

6. Leigh Morse
The Director of the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, Morse met a less severe fate than her boss. Found guilty of one count of scheming to defraud, she was given five years’ probation and four months’ weekend jail time. Robert De Niro testified at her trial regarding the mismanagement of his father’s estate.

7. Ronald Coles
Australian art dealer Ronald Coles is currently in jail awaiting trial for a multi-million dollar fraud. Coles sold numerous paintings stored at his Kenthurst Gallery without the permission of their owners, and was ultimately charged with  87 offences relating to his art fraud scheme.

8. Andrew Crispo
Crispo, who owned a prominent 57th Street gallery, was accused in 1985 of killing a young FIT student. The student’s burned body, clad only in a leather hood, was found in a Rockland County smokehouse. While never convicted of this crime, he was sent to jail for tax evasion just five months after the murder. Released in 1989, he went to jail again in 2000, after being convicted of attempted extortion and obstruction of justice.

9. Robin Symes
Once London’s best-known antiques dealers, Symes was convicted for two counts of contempt of court for disregarding orders regarding the sale of a £3 million Egyptian statue. In January 2005 he was sent to prison for two years and released after serving only seven months.

Taubman in 2011. Photo: EUGENE MIM/

A. Alfred Taubman in 2011.
Photo: Eugene Mim/

10. A. Alfred Taubman
The former head of Sotheby’s pleaded not guilty to charges that he colluded with counterparts at Christie’s to fix the commission fees charged to auction house customers over a six-year period in the 1990s. At the end of a 16-day trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to a year and a day in jail. He was freed in 2003 after serving nine months of his sentence.

11. Alastair Duncan
A former Christie’s consultant and one of the world’s leading experts on Tiffany stained glass was convicted of conspiring with a grave robber to pilfer rare stained-glass windows from cemetery mausoleums and resell them overseas for a hefty profit. In 2000 he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Mary Boone Photo: Paul Bruinooge/

Mary Boone
Photo: Paul Bruinooge/

12. Mary Boone
Though perhaps technically not a “jailbird,” successful gallerist Mary Boone did serve time in prison for a day. This was in connection with artist Tom Sachs‘”Haute Bricolage” show, which took place at her Fifth Avenue gallery, and featured a vase filled with live bullets on the reception desk as well as a gun cabinet stocked with several handguns. After the police were tipped off by a gallery patron, Boone was arrested on misdemeanor charges of unlawful distribution of ammunition, possession of unlawful weapons, and resisting arrest.

13. E. Forbes Smiley
In 2006, Smiley, a dealer of antique maps, was found guilty of clipping 97 rare maps valued at more than $3 million from books in prestigious libraries around the world, including The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale and The New York Public Library. Over the course of a seven-year period, he managed to do this undetected, until a Beinecke  librarian discovered his X-acto knife blade on the floor. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and was released in 2010.

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