Knoedler Forgery Ringleader’s Paintings Sold at US Marshal’s Auction

Authorities say none of the auctioned works were forged.

A painting sold by Knoedler as a Mark Rothko that turned out to be fake.
A painting sold by Knoedler as a Mark Rothko that turned out to be fake.
Jules Olitski, <em>Patutsky Embraced: Off-white and Blue</em> (2005). Photo: courtesy Gaston & Sheehan.

Jules Olitski, Patutsky Embraced: Off-white and Blue (2005).
Photo: courtesy Gaston & Sheehan.

Disgraced dealer Glafira Rosales may have pleaded guilty in 2013 to selling forged paintings to the tune of some $80 million, but her known ties to fakes didn’t stop the US government from quietly selling artworks from her inventory at Texas’s Gaston & Sheehan auction house this spring in a sale simply titled “US Marshals Service National Collectibles – Eastern District of New York.”

The online auction, held in March and April, included pieces by Louise Lawler, Sean Scully, Jules Olitski, Ad Reinhardt, Kenneth Noland, and Andy Warhol, all of which had been seized by US Marshals. Gastom & Sheehan is the national auction contractor for the US Marshals. The sale reportedly avoided any mention of Rosales’s name, and the $4.8 million proceeds went to those who lost money due to the fraud.

Buyers at the Gaston & Sheehan sale were assured of the authenticity of each and every lot: “All the works of art in this sale were appraised by a certified appraiser,” a spokeswoman for the US Marshals Service told the Art Newspaper. “During the appraisal, no issues arose that indicated the need for detailed authentication. If any work of art had been found to be counterfeit, [we] would… have destroyed it.”

Ad Reinhardt, abstract painting (1947). Photo: courtesy Gaston & Sheehan.

Ad Reinhardt, abstract painting (1947).
Photo: courtesy Gaston & Sheehan.

Rosales’s forgeries were created by Pei Shen Qian, an elderly Chinese artist based in Queens. He has since returned to his native country, presumably to avoid prosecution for his role in the forgery ring. Qian has insisted that he had no idea his work was going to be passed off as original paintings by the like of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

The auction’s lots did not include any works by Pollock, Rothko, or Robert Motherwell—the artists of which Rosales has admitted to selling forgeries.

A painting sold by Knoedler as a Mark Rothko that turned out to be fake.

A painting sold by Knoedler as a Mark Rothko that turned out to be fake.

The top-selling works at the Texas auction house were Richard Pousette-Dart‘s Le Bijou (1957) at $325,100, and a abstract 1947 canvas by Reinhardt, which sold for $300,100. Warhol’s Heaven and Hell Are Just One Breath Away fetched $170,100.

Currently, Rosales is still awaiting sentencing. One lawsuit against Knoedler Gallery, which stands accused of peddling fakes (including one canvas that misspelled Pollock’s name), was recently settled, but former Sotheby’s executive Domenico De Sole will bring his case against the gallery to court next month.


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