Lawyers for Art Scammer Luke Brugnara Now Say de Kooning Paintings Are Probably Fake

Luke Brugnara at the Silver City Casino, Las Vegas, June 2003. Via Luke Brugnara, Facebook.
Luke Brugnara. Photo: via ABC.

Luke Brugnara.
Photo: via ABC.

Lawyers for Luke Brugnara, who was indicted in June 2014 for ordering $11 million worth of art he never paid for, is at in again in court.

According to Courthouse News, now lawyers for Brugnara are claiming that 16 other paintings—purported to be by Willem de Kooning that the FBI confiscated from Brugnara’s house—could be fake. His attorney, Dena Young, told the judge: “The issue is that these paintings are not what they claim to be.”

She said her expert, former American Association of Appraisers president Victor Weiner, has doubts about the provenance and authenticity of the de Koonings and asked that the judge not release the works to New York dealer Walter Maibaum and his company Modernism Fine Arts, which had been acting on behalf of the owners.

In an email to artnet News Maibaum attested that “the de Koonings were consigned to Modernism Fine Arts Inc and we offered them for sale. Inappropriately they were then shipped by a second party to Mr. Brugnara who claimed he would purchase them. The owners of the de Koonings want them shipped back to us, so that, we in turn could return the paintings to the owners.”

As a result, the judge in the case, US District Judge William Alsup, has ordered an evidentiary hearing, and gave prosecutors and Brugnara’s lawyers until September 2 to submit expert reports. The judge said he will consider the experts’ valuations at Brugnara’s sentencing, which is scheduled for September 8.

It sounds like all the distraction has Alsup frustrated. According to the Courthouse report, the judge told Assistant US Attorney Robin Harris: “My last opportunity to get to the bottom of this things is going out the window.”

Earlier, on July 21, Courthouse News reported that Brugnara is complaining of the conditions in jail, said he needs to fire his lawyers, is “near death,” and needs bail in order to recuperate and hire new lawyers.

According to an emergency motion for new counsel, Brugnara wrote: ” I cannot sit on a cement floor 24/7, two feet square, in an 8×6 cell with no fresh air, stuffy, no exercise, much longer…I simply will perish as a human being.”

Following Brugnara’s attempts at self-representation—which included numerous outbursts, before, during, and after his trial, Alsup issued an order saying the former real estate investor and developer would never be allowed to represent himself again.

For related coverage, see:

Court Keeps Artwork As Luke Brugnara Looks to Appeal Conviction

Alleged Art Swindler Luke Brugnara Threatens Judge With Retribution

Violent Juror Defends Art Scammer Luke Brugnara And Calls Judge a Nazi Agent

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.