How a Queens Man Forged Modern Masterpieces

Heat, tea bags used to "age" Pei-Shen Qian's paintings
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2014 7:10 AM CDT
How a Queens Man Forged Modern Masterpieces
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)

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.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.