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Forging Rothko

from The New York Times

Indictment Details How to Forge a Masterpiece


One of the Seagram murals by Mark Rothko. Federal prosecutors say Pei-Shen Qian copied him.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

The painting caught Pei-Shen Qian’s eye, but it was the price that affected him deeply.

Mr. Qian, browsing in a booth at a Manhattan art show a decade ago, had stumbled across his own work: a forgery of a modern masterpiece that he had recently completed. He had sold it for just a few hundred dollars, to a man prosecutors now say was Mr. Qian’s co-conspirator in a long-running, $33 million art swindle, whose success stemmed in large measure from Mr. Qian’s skill.

The painter’s surprise encounter with his own handiwork, offered for sale at a price “far in excess” of what he had earned, prompted Mr. Qian to raise the price he charged for his forgeries, from several hundred to several thousand dollars, according to a federal fraud and money laundering indictment unsealed on Monday. But Mr. Qian, who produced the counterfeit masterworks in the garage of his home in Woodhaven, Queens, still received only a tiny fraction of the money his three co-conspirators netted in the scheme.

The case, which first came to light last year, upended the art world, where many dealers, collectors and experts were duped by Mr. Qian’s deft forgeries of Abstract Expressionist masters — painters like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell — and by the actions of two largely unknown art dealers.

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Posted on April 24, 2014 by Editor

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