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Stereoscopic photograph of the Knoedler gallery interior, c.1860–80
Stereoscopic photograph of the Knoedler gallery interior, c.1860–80

Melbar Entertainment Group has begun production on the feature documentary about the infamous Knoedler Gallery art scandal that involved one of the largest art forgeries in history. Over 60 forged abstract expressionists works of art sold to high society collectors and prestigious art institutions for over $80 million in total. The film will be completed in late 2019.

The fully financed documentary-feature will be directed by prolific veteran filmmaker Barry Avrich (THE LAST MOGUL, THE RECKONING, BLURRED LINES and PROSECUTING EVIL).

This new film explores the secretive world of the American art world. For the first time, Avrich’s thriller-like film will connects the dots, revealing how a deeply troubled art scandal shook the privileged world of art collecting.

M Knoedler & Co was an art dealership in New York City founded in 1846. When it closed in 2011, amid lawsuits for fraud, it was one of the oldest commercial art galleries in the US, having been in operation for 165 years. The gallery’s president Ann Freedman resigned in October 2009, amid rumours of problems with forged paintings supplied to the gallery by Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales. It was later discovered that between 1994 and 2011, the gallery had sold forged works of Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, among others. Freedman had purchased the paintings for Knoedler from Rosales, who had in turn obtained the forgeries from the art forger Pei-Shen Quian. Quian had reportedly painted the forgeries in a garage in Queens, New York. He is reported to have received a few thousand dollars for each painting from Rosales, while Rosales sold the paintings for millions of dollars each to Knoedler.

While Rosales initially denied claims of fraud, in 2013, she pleaded guilty to selling over 60 fake works of art to two New York art galleries, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and tax evasion. Spanish art dealer Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz (Ms. Rosales’ boyfriend) and his brother Jesus Angel Bergantiños Diaz were also indicted in US District Court for the fraud. While the Diaz brothers were arrested in Spain, the art forger who painted the fakes, Pei-Shen Qian, was indicted but avoided prosecution by fleeing to China.

The reception from those that observed, participated and were victimised has been overwhelming, affirming the continuing obsession with the art world. As a filmmaker I have always had a great interest in the art world, ” stated Filmmaker Barry Avrich.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Barry Avrich is responsible for over 40 documentaries, best known for provocative exposes of Hollywood brokers such as Lew Wasserman (THE LAST MOGUL), Harvey Weinstein (THE RECKONING), publishing kingpin Bob Guccione (FILTHY GORGEOUS), Vanity Fair provocateur Dominick Dunne (GUILTY PLEASURE) and reclusive Rolling Stones promoter Michael Cohl (SATISFACTION). In 2016, Avrich released his best-selling memoir, “Moguls, Monsters and Men”.

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