June 14, 2013

Art forgery ring specializing in Russian avant-garde busted


I love a good story about art forging.

Catherine Hickley reported on Bloomberg yesterday that police in Wiesbaden, Mainz, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg and Cologne raided 28 apartments, business premises, depots and art galleries, seizing more than 1000 items and arresting two people when they busted an international forgery ring specializing in work by Russian avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky.



 The forgers are suspected of selling more than 400 works since 2005, for prices ranging from 1,000 euros ($1,332) to more than 1 million euros, the police said. Searches were also carried out in Switzerland and Israel and the nationalities of suspects are Russian, Israeli and German-Tunisian, police said.

“These investigations are a successful blow to an internationally active forgery scene,” Joerg Ziercke, the president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. “Our close coordination with partners in Switzerland and Israel has allowed us to put a stop to these criminals.”

The two people arrested, who are 41 and 67 years old, are suspected to be the leaders of an international group of six forgers, police said, adding that they found suspected forgeries and sales documents in their apartments. The forgers copied the style of artists including Natalia Goncharova, Alexej Jawlensky and Mikhail Larionov and passed the paintings off as unknown works, the police said.

Most of the paintings were acquired by private collectors in Germany, the police said. The two people arrested may in the last two years alone have sold forged paintings for more than 2 million euros to collectors in Germany in Spain, police said.
Specializing in Russian avant-garde? Because there were so many good painters of this period who aren't widely known in the west, this is an excellent choice.


Image at top: Natalia Goncharova, Woodcutters, 1911, oil on canvas. Above: Alexi Jawlensky, Head, 1910?, oil on canvas, 16 x 13, courtesy of MOMA © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Neither of these paintings were seized in the raids.

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