Art market

California man admits to selling over $1m in forged art, purportedly by Richard Hambleton and Barkley Hendricks

Jason Harrington pleaded guilty to selling phony paintings to at least 15 galleries and individuals between 2018 and 2020

Pictures of Harrington’s forgeries in progress, featuring Richard Hambleton’s Shadowman. Courtesy, the United States Department of Justice

A man from Escondido, California, a suburb of San Diego, pleaded guilty yesterday to selling $1.1m in forged art to at least 15 galleries and individuals between 2018 and 2020, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Among the works of art that the Californian, Jason Harrington, passed off as authentic were several that featured the New York street artist Richard Hambleton’s ominous Shadowman.

To make the pictures seem legitimate, Harrington would present buyers with a letter “purportedly signed by the individual who obtained the art’’ and lie about the provenance, the DOJ says. On one occasion, it adds, he asked someone to claim that the work was purchased directly from Hambleton, a celebrated street artist, and presented the buyer with doctored photographs to make it seem as if the person who had obtained the art knew Hambleton personally, it adds.

Harrington also admitted to trying to sell a forged Barkley L. Hendricks, claiming to the owner of an gallery that he had inherited the portrait from his uncle, the DOJ says. The gallerist turned down the offer, however, after Hendrick’s widow inspected the work and said it was fake.

As part of his plea, Harrington agreed to pay at least $1.1m in restitution. He will appear for sentencing on 22 October.