Three people–a 59-year-old phony aristocrat and an art dealer couple in their 60’s–were arrested in Stuttgart, Germany for fraud and copyright infringement [!] after police broke up an international Alberto Giacometti forgery operation. Over 1,000 fake Giacommetis were confiscated from storage space in Mainz, outside Frankfurt. The Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeittung photographed a few of them [above] at the police’s invitation. Seriously, I don’t see how the copyright infringement charges will stick, because those things look like crap.
If I understand the Google translation of FAZ correctly, the forgers created an elaborate backstory to support the existence of so much unknown Giacometti material.
The main suspect, who hasn’t been named by police, called himself an “Imperial Count,” and claimed to have been entrusted the works by his dear, dear friend in Paris, Diego, Alberto’s sculptor brother, who died in 1985. According to the count, Diego accumulated a massive stash of Alberto’s sculptures–both casts and plaster originals–from the foundry they shared. The works were kept hidden from Alberto’s widow and heirs [Alberto died in 1966].
Why? Perhaps the answer is to be found in the 139-page book, Diego’s Revenge, which explains the history of the brothers’ rivalry and which supported the works’ authenticity. Because, of course, it had been written and published by the scammers themselves.
In their press release [pdf auf deutch, google translation], the State Crime Prosecutor in Stuttgart had some valuable advice for Giacometti collectors and other art collectors alike:
Prevention tips for the purchase of works of art:
Before you buy:
- Avoid impulse buys and so-called “bargains”
- Evaluate the offer for sale carefully
- Find out on the basis of literature (picture books, work folders) on the Purchase
- Überlassen Sie in Zweifelsfällen die Bewertung sachkundigen Dritten (Sammler, • Do not leave in doubt the valuation expert third party (picking, Dealers, museums, etc.)
- Compare the offer and the prices on the art market
- Buy your art only against an invoice or purchase contract (§ 433 BGB)
- Write down in a private purchase, the identity of the seller, its Address and possibly also his license plates [especially important if you’re buying a Giacometti out of the trunk of a car. -ed,]
- Let the defining characteristics (originality, age, artists, etc.) be confirmed in writing.
Now that I think about it, there was a Giacometti Femme de Venise VI for sale last May at Santa Monica Auctions. It didn’t look like any of the published Femmes de Venise, which were numbered differently over the years, but it still has a foundry mark, and they still had a $25-30,000 estimate on it, even though SMA described it as “After Alberto Giacometti.” Never mind, I just spoke to the auctioneers, and that piece had been in a Los Angeles collection for over 40 years. Whatever it is, it’s not a German fake.
Die Gangster von Mainz [faz.net via artforum]