The Famous Art Frauds – Part 2

This is the second of our blogs to investigate into the world of art fraud, and uncover some of the perpetrators that the art world has ever seen. In recent times the problem of forged art has been a major concern, some experts say as much as 50% of all the art on the worldwide markets could be forged. As time progresses the art forgeries are getting better and better and the scams to sell illegitimate art more sophisticated. This edition of our blog concentrates on some of the more recent scams, forgeries and deceptions.

John Myatt

Elmyr de Hory

A British con man who is reputed to have painted over 200 forgeries, with a great deal of them being sold at some of the most prestigious auction houses around the world such as Sotheby’s, Philips and Christie’s. Myatt was an extremely talented forger and could turn his hand to almost any style from Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Renoir. Eventually Scotland Yard caught up with Myatt who claimed that his ventures only bought him around $150,000 of ill-gotten gains. After a year incarcerated, John Myatt became a public celebrity appearing on TV in a program how to fake the best art.

Elmyr de Hory

De Hory’s crimes were not discovered until after his death, when there was an investigation into an art fraud when some new discoveries were made. It is estimated that de Horay’s prolific career produced around a thousand of Picasso, Degas, and Matisse famous canvases. The worrying thing is that some unknown forgeries by De Hory are still in circulation today. Some of his forgeries are so good that they are now in demand. Publicly sold as forgeries by De Hory his fake canvases of Modigliani have recently been sold for $20,000 at the Gallery Terrain in San Francisco.

Tatiana Khan

Tatiana Khan

The disturbing con of art dealer Tatiana Khan was perhaps one of the worst scams in modern art history. The L.A based art dealer who owned the prestigious Chateau Allegre gallery, deliberately commissioned a copy of “La Femme Au Chapeau Bleu” by Picasso. The forger was paid one thousand dollars to replicate the painting and then Khan sold it to one of her clients for two million dollars. The very fact that a reputable dealer had initiated the scam shook the art world of America at the time.

Steve Martin

Even the rich and famous are vulnerable to art fraud, Hollywood actor Steve Martin was involved in a high-profile art case as it was discovered that a Heinrich Campendonk painting he had bought in 2004 was actually a fake. Bewilderingly Martin sold the painting in 2006, denying that he knew it was fake. But unusually Martin was happy to sell the genuine painting at a loss. The authorities had discovered that the painting was indeed not an original and had been forged by a ring of crooks in Germany, it is estimated that the same ring was responsible for another thirty-fake works that are still on the market. This scam was the biggest that Germany has ever seen and losses to unwitting art collectors have reached over fifty million dollars, but it could be much higher.

The proliferation of art fraud is almost getting to epidemic levels, this has certainly affected the art market in recent times slowing sales at auction. Really the only way to protect yourself from fraud is to follow a painting’s authenticity record, but even then, this is not a guarantee as the original purchaser may have indeed bought a fake in the first place.