How a Queens Man Forged Modern Masterpieces
Heat, tea bags used to "age" Pei-Shen Qian's paintings
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Apr 23, 2014 7:10 AM CDT
A detail of Jackson Pollock's “Mural,” 1943, is seen during a media preview at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Pollock was among the forged artists.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

(Newser) – A painter in Queens and his co-conspirators reportedly managed to trick experts for years with forgeries of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and other masters—and the techniques they used were, it seems, surprisingly simple. For instance: An art dealer in the $33 million scheme, one Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, "stained newer canvases with tea bags,” according to an indictment cited by the New York Times. That provided "the false appearance of (the paintings) being older than they actually were." Another aging technique involved "propping a blow-dryer over one of the fake works to heat it."

Bergantiños Diaz's ex-girlfriend, art dealer Glafira Rosales, has already pleaded guilty to fraud in the case and is working with the FBI, the Times reports. The two, along with Bergantiños Diaz's brother, Jesus Angel Bergantiños Diaz, together made up a "plausible, but entirely false, chain of ownership for each of the works," the indictment says. Both men were recently arrested in Spain; the painter, Pei-Shen Qian, 75, is thought to be in China. Jose Bergantiños Diaz met Qian on a New York street corner, where Qian was selling his own works, Gawker notes. After the painter spotted his own forgery at a Manhattan art show, he hiked his prices from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, the indictment says. (Another fascinating recent find that's apparently not a forgery: an ancient papyrus mentioning Jesus' wife.)

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Al Catraz
Apr 24, 2014 12:38 PM CDT
@julianpenrod & others.. Art is in the eyes of the beholder.... It is same when it comes to food, music, colour, odors, aroma... WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS! Obviously, as a FREE MARKET dictates, ANYTHING is worth only what somebody is willing to pay for it. If one is trying to sell a tomato for $100 - even if it is the last one on earth -- and nobody will buy it -- IT IS NOT NOT WORTH $100 !! So some people like paintings by Picasso and are, for some strange reason are willing to pay millions for them. I prefer Rembrandt - but I cannot afford it.... LOL Now, forgery is a crime that should be punishable... unless you are Hussein Obama and you forge your birth-certificate just so you can be elected to be "PRESIDENT"! conclusion -- the majority are idiots..
Apr 23, 2014 3:15 PM CDT
Apr 23, 2014 2:00 PM CDT
It can be said that forging, or “forging”, a painting can be made much easier if the “artist” being “forged” doesn't demonstrate and skill, technique or depth, if their “work” consists only of insincere, cynical aimless scrawls intended to make use of a criminal system called “modern art” to make a bundle. In fact, what is called “modern art” is a corrupt engineered system of profiteering based on the worst aspects of the legitimate art scene. Valid art used to involve people infusing their pieces with at least skill and often up to a degree of insight and depth. They, they would rely on agents or gallery owners who demanded a cut and then proceeded to cobble together lucrative deals so they could profit big. Along the way, there could be comments by often petty or craven “critics”, sometimes affecting sales. And, the end result often if not mostly would be pieces sold to talentless, unimaginative, shallow dullards who bought them for reasons often unseemly or prurient. Between then and now, an important development occurred. As people wanting items of a specific type or form increased in number, but those who produced them disappeared, prices for pieces increased. Some became so well know, it was almost impossible for any but the wealthiest to own them. At that point, the idea of art as an investment caught on. “Modern art” institutionalized all of it under one rubric. “Artists” now sell pictures of single dots for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the start. Establishing the potential as an investment. But what really makes it an investment is someone willing to pay. After so many years, though, now, the system of prices is self sustaining. Enough ultra rich are willing to pay, on the expectation that they will get a profit when they turn around and resell, that ascribing arbitrary massive “value” to a piece is quite simple. Everyone who has the kind of money “modern art” crooks look for is assured what they buy will increase in value as time goes on. Meanwhile, gallery owners and agents carry out the cobbling of deals and work to make sure only “the kind of crooks they can work with” get into the scene. And “critics” add a sense of “legitimacy” by endowing entirely spiritually empty pictures of random triangles reams and reams of doggerel masquerading as “critique”, consisting of sentences thirty words long, each word several syllables in size and all chosen to be opaque. “Working from within a dissonant panoply of categorizations and eminent coruscations of subtlety, he impregnates dominant but iconoclastic nomenclatures with suffusions of variegated manifestations of colloquy.” Of course, since it's just a matter of generating something whose “value” comes not from the item itself but from the gentleman's agreement to pay more for it later on, as an artificial investment, the pieces didn't need anything validating about them. And so was born the system of contemptuous doodles being called necessarily “art”. And, to answer the protestations of whose who look at the garbage and call it garbage, in order to keep their economy looting swindle going, “modern artists” have the stock comeback, “Well, you just prove that you are too stupid to realize the immense philosophical meaning and depth of the piece!” “The Emperor's New Clothes”. The only difference is that, in the fable, realms of power were so dependent on the populace that they could be influenced by even one admitting that what was being paraded as finery was just thin air! A massive ancillary development has been the rich and powerful working to solidify their power so much that no amount of public disagreement could force them to recant! As an aside, consider, too, that, given that “modern art” has such artificial value given it, is so easily transported, is untraceable and constitutes so little an actual contribution to society that it could all burn up with no one suffering, it has become a favored form of currency in drug deals. Frankly, it is questionable is anything as bereft of everything from skill to conscience and depth can be declared to have been “forged”. Indeed, “modern art” pieces themselves are just as much frauds and scams as the “forgeries” are claimed to be!