As the art market has continued its perpetual boom, the temptation for some dealers, collectors and other participants to push the limits of propriety – and, sometimes, of the law – has grown as well. And in the more rarefied climes of New York’s Chelsea and Upper East Side, the shenanigans can be just as brazen as in Miami’s smaller auction houses – only, much more profitable.
There have been some important art busts lately. In late January, police arrested an art-dealing evangelical pastor – from Miami, of course – after he allegedly tried to pawn off several fake Damien Hirst spin paintings to an undercover cop. His lawyer says he intends to fight charges of second-degree grand larceny, the New York Times has reported.
An assistant to the late Imelda Marcos is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to conspiracy and tax fraud charges in connection with stolen art, including a Monet landscape sold for $32m, taken from the Philippine consulate in New York during the fall of the Marcos regime in 1986.
Perhaps the biggest scandal of recent years saw art dealer Larry Salander, whose Upper East Side townhouse gallery exhibited Renaissance trophy pieces, sent to New York’s mid-state correctional facility after pleading guilty to 29 counts of grand larceny. (“A pathologically self-absorbed con man,” the prosecutor called him.)