The recent demise of the famous New York City art gallery, M. Knoedler & Company, amid accusations of selling forged and fake artworks comes as no surprise to us, but for the fact that it is many years in the coming.
In perhaps one of the early landmark art fraud cases, my firm sued M. Knoedler, as well as a major art collector from Boston and the renowned art expert and author on the definitive catalogue resonne of the art works of Winslow Homer in federal court.
In that lawsuit, brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, located in Downtown Manhattan, our client “Sally” who was a small art collector-dealer in New Jersey, owned a beautiful, but unknown, signed oil painting that was a quintessential Homer. Due to the need to have the painting authenticated so that it would be recognized and fully accepted by art museums, galleries and collectors, she accepted Knoedler’s offer to show the painting to Gordon Hendricks, who was near completing a major art book on Winslow Homer paintings and drawings. After several weeks, Knoedler’s Vice President told Sally that Hendricks could not authenticate her art work, but that while at the gallery, a collector saw the art work and wanted to buy it as a “nice painting” to hang on the wall, offering her $25,000, which she accepted.
However, it was not very long until a friend at another major New York gallery called Sally, asking why she didn’t offer him the painting. After all, he informed Sally, now that it has been authenticated in writing by Hendricks as a real Homer, it was very valuable. That is when Sally hired me and my lawfirm.
Upon our investigation, we discovered that not only did Hendricks authenticate the painting, he was including it in his soon to be released book, and that the Boston art collector quickly flipped the painting as an authentic Homer.
In our federal lawsuit, we discovered during depositions that within ten days of Sally’s sale, Hendricks gave Knoedler and the Boston collector a letter unconditionally accepting the art work as authentic. More significantly, we discovered that soon after the Boston dealer flipped the painting, he gave Knoedler and Hendricks each checks for 1/3 the amount of his profit.
We are proud to say that it was within only a few days of that discovery, that we settled the case whereby Sally recovered the full value of the painting.