Spanish Art Market

Spate of Spanish art fakes recently discovered in the market

Watch out for Millares, Chillida, Domìnguez and Barceló. Interpol find “French connection”

Spanish police are looking into some recent cases of contemporary art fakes discovered on the market. Two works by the Canary Island painter, Manuel Millares, were withdrawn from Christie’s London, sale of 17 October after his widow declared them to be spurious.

Then at the Bienal Tanqueray de Artes Visuales held at the Conde Duque Centre, Madrid, a work supposedly by Chillida, “Composicion”, had to be withdrawn shortly before the opening, while “Sopa de peix” by Miquel Barceló was withdrawn after the artist himself rejected it shortly before the Bienal’s closure. The owner had apparently paid around 9 million pesetas (£50,000; $95,000) for the work from a Barcelona gallery. The organiser of the fair, the well known art critic Juan Manuel Bonet, lamented that there has been an avalanche of fakes in recent years. He singled out the works of Millares and Oscar Domìnguez as being especially faked. In the case of the latter there is an authority who has published various studies on his work, and who gives certificates of authenticity. The irony is that during his own life, Domìnguez himself painted various fakes of other painters.

At the end of October, Barceló forced the closure of an exhibition at the Barcelona gallery Sardà i Sardà entitled “Tapies-Barceló”. This was because he identified two fakes of his paintings among the exhibits. Furthermore, Spanish law decrees that an artist’s permission must be obtained if more than six of his works are to be exhibited, and even after the fakes were withdrawn Sardà i Sardà were displaying nine paintings and four drawings by Barceló.

The Mallorcan artist has declared war on “a diabolical speculative spiral” which was enveloped his works and, indeed, there has been a dizzy rise in the prices for his paintings in the last few years. Barceló is represented in New York by Leo Castelli, in Paris by Yvon Lambert, in Zurich by Bruno Bischofberger and in Madrid by Soledad Lorenzo. Since this recent episode, the Spanish police and Interpol, following the trail of the so-called “French Connection” have discovered eight false Barceló’s in the galleries Tres d’Oros and Jaime III in Palma de Mallorca, Sala Durán y Almirante in Madrid and Sardà i Sardà in Barcelona. Informed market sources say that there may be some tens of fakes.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 3 December 1990