Indictment for Portland Art Forger Who Allegedly Faked Mark Tobeys

Larry Ulvi Photo: Portland Live
The fake Tobey painting that Larry Ulvi sold to a Portland art gallery. Photo: Mark Humpal via Oregon Live

The fake Tobey painting that Larry Ulvi sold to a Portland art gallery.
Photo: Mark Humpal via Oregon Live

The suspected art forger Larry Ulvi has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon, on mail fraud charges. Ulvi allegedly created and attempted to sell counterfeit artworks, Oregon Live reported. If found guilty, he may face 20 years in prison.

Ulvi was apprehended by the FBI on March 9 for passing off his own paintings as works by the Northwest School artists Mark Tobey and Kenneth Callahan. Prosecutors wrote in the indictment that there is high demand for those artists’ works nationally and internationally. A gouache painting by Tobey measuring only 18 inches high fetched just over $450,000 at Christie’s London in 2011, setting a record for the artist.

According to court documents, Ulvi defrauded an art dealer identified only as K.W., who bought three fake Tobey paintings for $9,000 between June and July 2013. Ulvi sold the dealer an additional six bogus canvases and a work on paper.

Following the arrest, two other local art dealers said the fraudster tried to dupe them too. One of the dealers, Mark Humpal, told Oregon Live that he was offered a fake Tobey from Ulvi for $1,200.

Humpal said that he took a chance on the unframed painting but was suspicious over the poorly executed signature; he had seen strange signatures on genuine Tobeys before, he said. Upon closer inspection he noticed that the painting looked as if it had never been framed. He tried to contact Ulvi to organize a return, to no avail.

“It’s probably worthless, because it’s a fake, unquestionably,” Humpal said. The FBI “had been looking at this guy for a while and they decided to pinch him for his persistence,” he revealed.

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