An art dealer has been charged with selling fakes of works supposedly by Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Adolph Gottlieb and Tom Wesselmann. On 7 January, court documents in the case were received by the federal trial court in Manhattan after the prosecution was transferred there from Miami, where art and antiques dealer Giuseppe Concepcion was arrested on 21 November. Mr Concepcion operated Proarte Gallery in both Florida and New York, the government says. According to the complaint, filed by James P. Wynne, a well-known special agent in the FBI’s art crime team, the dealer ran the scheme from about May 2005 to March 2007.
Mr Concepcion acquired real works “by purchase, consignment, or simple custody”, then “acquired or commissioned forgeries of the artwork, which he sold to the victims”, the complaint says. He created false ownership histories, “forged certificates of authenticity, forged gallery and auction labels, and altered banking and third party documents” to induce victims to buy the art, the government says.
According to the complaint, Mr Concepcion told a client residing in Greenwich, Connecticut that a painting called Red Swirl was by Calder, which the client paid $180,000 to buy, partly with cash and partly by trading a 2004 Bentley. The same client bought about 14 other art works from Mr Concepcion, all now determined by experts to be fakes; a representative of the Calder Foundation has determined that Red Swirl is a forgery, the complaint says.
It also says that a second client bought a purported Marc Chagall watercolour from Mr Concepcion in 2006 for $125,000, and also a purported Willem de Kooning drawing, but representatives of the Comité Chagall and the Willem de Kooning Foundation say that they have no record of the Chagall certificate number provided by Mr Concepcion or of the de Kooning drawing.
A Pennsylvania client paid Proarte about $160,000 for a purported Tom Wesselmann oil painting, but was later told by a Wesselmann dealer and expert that the painting was a forgery, which the Wesselmann Estate confirms, the complaint says.
Manhattan prosecutors were granted a procedural delay until 30 January in the case. Bail was set for Mr Concepcion at $500,000. If convicted, Mr Concepcion faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss caused by his crimes.
Proarte Gallery of NY is listed as an exhibitor of contemporary and modern art on the website of AD 20/21, a Boston art and design fair. Proarte Gallery of Miami is listed as a 2008 exhibitor on the website of the Palm Beach Winter Antiques Show, and was listed as a new exhibitor at the 2006 Antiques Show of the Women’s Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
Agent Wynne has been with the FBI for more than 25 years and has been assigned to the Major Theft Squad since 1987, where he specialises in fraud and thefts related to art, antiques, valuable collectibles, cultural heritage objects and jewellery.
Mr Concepcion denies the charges.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'New York- and Miami-based dealer accused over multiple forgeries'