Masterminds of Russian Avant-Garde Art Forgery Ring Go to Trial

Police with a fake painting by Wassily Kandinsky. Photo: Alberto Cattaneo, courtesy Agenzia Fotogramma.
Police with a fake painting by Wassily Kandinsky. Photo: Alberto Cattaneo, courtesy Agenzia Fotogramma.

The trial of three men charged with running an art forgery ring specializing in the Russian avant-garde began this week but was quickly suspended, reports the Art Newspaper. They are charged with attempting to sell 18 forgeries of paintings by artists including Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, and Alexander Rodchenko.

The men were arrested in 2013, when a German police raid found 1,000 artworks in apartments and warehouses across the country. The paintings were allegedly being sold through SMZ Gallery, which the men co-owned and managed, in Wiesbaden, Germany. The accused are Itzhak H., 68, the gallery co-owner; Moez Ben H., 42, the gallery manager, and his brother, Adenande Ben H., 41 (see International Art Forgery Ringleaders Charged).

The forgery ring is said to have begun operation in 2006, and to have close ties to Israel, where the fake canvases are believed to have been made. There, an additional 18 people were arrested on suspicion of money laundering connected to the scheme. The defense team in Germany has requested a one-week postponement, pleading that they were given too short notice about a change in the proceedings.

For more of artnet News’ coverage of art forgeries see Massive Old Masters Forgery Ring Busted in Spain, Museum Staff Replaced Collection with Forgeries, Then Sold Originals, Fake Monet Forgeries Hit Auction Block, and Master Forger Wolfgang Beltracchi Released from Prison.


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