GLG Partners co-founder Pierre Lagrange has sued a defunct Manhattan art gallery, accusing it of selling him a fake Jackson Pollock painting for $17 million.
Lagrange, now with the Man Group, said Knoedler & Co. closed on Wednesday after 165 years in business, a day after Lagrange gave it a report concluding that the painting was a forgery. According to the report, the painting, "Untitled 1950," imcluded two paints that were not invented until after Pollock's death in 1956.
"It's a sad day when a venerable gallery goes out of business when confronted with the fact that it sold its clients a $17 million fake painting, rather than stand by their client," Lagrange's lawyer, Matthew Dontzin, told The New York Times.
Lagrange became suspicious after both Sotheby's and Christie's refused to accept the painting last year due to questions about its authenticity. According to the lawsuit, which also names former Knoedler director Ann Freedman, Knoedler and Freedman told Lagrange that the comprehensive directory of Pollock's art was being edited to include the painting, when there was, in fact, no definitive plan to do so. Knoedler had owned the painting for seven years, and its exclusion from the catalogue raisonne was the reason it had been unable to sell it.
Knoedler and Freedman "falsely represented to Mr. Lagrange, directly and indirectly, that the Pollock 'Catalogue Raisonne' was in the process of being updated and the revised version would include the work," the lawsuit alleges.
Knoedler denies that it closed due to Lagrange's allegations. "This was a business decision made after careful consideration over the course of an extended period of time," it said on its web site. A spokeswoman for the gallery further said that "the allegations of misrepresentation are completely baseless."
Federal authorities are now looking into a whole host of paintings, including those by Pollock and Robert Motherwell, as possible expert forgeries. Many were sold to prestigious New York galleries by a Long Island art dealer named Glafira Rosales. Rosales' lawyer told the Times she had "never intentionally or knowingly sold artwork she knew to be forged."
Lagrange is seeking at least $15.3 million, which excludes $1.7 million he paid in commissions to two intermediaries, and punitive damages.