CRIME AND PUNISHMENT:
Art Department
1930s-era Jewish gangster


"[Bernard] Berenson [born Bernhard Valvrojenski] was a genius who early in life channeled his gifts into the study of that finest flower of Christian art: Italian Renaissance painting. By the age of 35 he had become the world's leading authority ... The curators of many of world's greatest museum's were either his former pupils or his disciples ... They came to hear his opinions, take his advice, and pay homage to his scholarship and his intellectual integrity. A small minority saw him as a disgustingly rich, opinionated, spiteful tyrant ... But only a handful were aware that it was Berenson, not [prominent art dealer Joseph] Duveen [also Jewish], who was probably the most successful and unscrupulous art dealer the world has ever seen."
Colin Simpson
Artful Partners. Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen, Macmillan, 1986, p. 1


"The raw truth about both men [Berenson and Duveen] ... is ... complex and considerably sordid."
Peter Watson,
From Manet to Manhattan. The Rise of the Modern Art Market, Random House, 1991



"Berenson shaped the very terrain of Renaissance studies, not to mention the market for what has became its masterpieces."
Eunice Lipton,
The Pastry Shop and the Angel of Death. What's Jewish in Art History, in Rubin/Dorsky, People of the Book, Press of American Studies Association, 1996


In the field of archeological swindles, Moses Shapira was the pioneer in the field. "Shapira," notes Israeli art curator Irit Salmon, "was the first to recognize that archeology could be a profitable business." Shapira, a Russian Jewish transplant to Jerusalem, sold a variety of fake archaeological artifacts in the late 1800s, including recently manufactured items he misrepresented to major European museums. "His exposure as a fraud in 1884 led to his suicide a few months earlier."
Shoshana Sappir,
Moses' Dealer, The Jerusalem Report, July 31, 2000



 In the midst of the controversy over the building of a museum (in 1974) bearing the name of Jewish mogul Joseph Hirshhorn on the mall in Washington DC, Washington newspaper columnist Jack Anderson "reported that Hirshhorn had been in legal trouble years earlier over alleged currency smuggling and stock manipulation." [MEYER, K., The Art Museum. Power, Money, Ethics, William Morrow, 1979, p. 50]


"The ability to bilk one's clients at auction is a fine art, make no mistake about it. To succeed for a lifetime without detection or exposure, the auction- buying crook must have the cunning of a polecat, the ethics of a Gabon viper, and the acquisitive drive of a dung-beetle. All these feral qualities were uniquely fused in the late Lew David Feldman, a rare book and manuscript dealer who opeated under a firm name devised from his cutely bastardized initials -- The House of El Dieff."
Charles Hamilton,
Auction Madness. An Uncensored Look Behind the Velvet Drapes of the Great Auction Houses, Everest House, Publishers, New York, 1981, p. 19



The Great $50 Million Art Swindle. Forbes, February 6, 2001
"Many are calling it the biggest art fraud ever. When all the figures are in, art dealer Michel Cohen will have taken the art world for at least $50 million, and maybe half as much again or more ... It's a jealous and wary system, where each player guards sources and clients, but it is built on an essential trust. This is the system that has made the art market the largest unregulated money market in the world--a market that Michel Cohen was in a position to loot."

FBI to Examine Photo 'Forgeries.' The Times [of London], August 17, 2001
"The FBI has begun an investigation into the suspected forgery of hundreds of works by one of Americaís most famous photographers. Test showed that numerous 'vintage' prints by Lewis Hine, who is revered for his social realist pictures from the Depression, were printed on paper not available until more than a decade after his death in 1940. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from a dealer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about Hineís longtime collaborator, Walter Rosenblum, an acclaimed war photographer and the former president of the Photo League co-operative where Hine left his archives ... he was reported to have reached a confidential settlement out of court with six dealers to create a £690,000 fund to reimburse buyers of between 300 and 500 Hine prints who were unhappy with their purchases."

More Misleading Than Buying Sight Unseen
.
The Art Newspaper [Great Britain], May 30, 2000
"The New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has filed an injunction against the Antique and Design Center, an art gallery based in New Windsor outside New York City, for selling fake works of art through eBay. Throughout 1999, the Antique and Design Center, which also operates under the name Antique Connection and sells on eBay through the ID 'sambuca914.' sold twenty-three works valued between $700 and $10,000 ... (The proprietors of the Antique and Design Center, Jill and Jerry Schuster, had no comment for the publication.) This will be the first case of fraud brought by the State against an online art retailer, but the Attorney General does not think that it will be the last. 'This is just the tip of the iceberg,' commented Mr Spitzer. He also added that several other galleries are currently under investigation."

Money Laundering Charges for Art Dealers, museum-security.org [originally from the New York Times], June 3 2001
"Two New York City art dealers, Shirley D. Sack, 73 and Arnold K. Katzen, 62, have been charged with conspiring to launder $4.1 million in drug money after being apprehended in an undercover sting in Boston, federal authorities said. According to the Associated Press, the two were arrested on Thursday at the Ritz Carlton Hotel as they attempted to sell paintings, which they claimed were originals by Modigliani and Degas, to a federal agent posing as a drug dealer. Alan M. Stewart, a Stamford, Conn., art dealer who was not present during the undercover sting, was charged with conspiring to set up the transaction. Court papers identified Ms. Sack as a wholesaler of art and jewelry, and principal of Shirley D. Sack, Ltd., 300 East 56th Street, and Mr. Katzen as principal of American European Art Associates, 1100 Madison Avenue. Federal authorities said their investigation began in March when an informant, who would later act as a go-between in Thursday's operation, told them that Ms. Sack had been attempting to sell a painting by Raphael and was prepared to accept payment in drug money or from organized crime figures."

Four Israelis Arrested Here for Stealing Judaica in Europe. museum-security.org. [originally from the Jerusalem Post], February 28, 2001
"A gang of Israelis is suspected of stealing valuable Judaica, ritual objects, and holy books from synagogues, museums, and private collections all over Europe, smuggling them into Israel, and reselling them. Tel Aviv police arrested four suspects on Monday and yesterday, central unit head Asst.- Cmdr. Menahem Frank said. Additional arrests are expected, he said, adding that at this point all the members of the gang appear to be Israelis. Police found $2 million worth of valuables that are believed to have been stolen in the Jerusalem home of one suspect."

Israeli Police Probe Art Theft Ring. museum-security.org, May 11, 1997 [original source: UPI; scroll to this article just below the middle of the page]
"Israeli security forces have located some 85 objects d'art slated for distribution in the underground circuit. The loot includes 76 Christian icon paintings and nine paintings from the 16th to 17th centuries valued at several hundred thousand dollars each. The investigation began when a local dealer reported that a colleague tried to sell him five famous paintings stolen from a Paris museum in February. Police contracted a dealer to meet with one suspect in a Tel Aviv apartment and pretend to close a deal. The alleged art trafficker, his partner, and dozens of works of art were captured in the sting operation. The two suspects, one a bank official and the other a supermarket owner, face charges of accepting stolen goods ... Police believe the group is part of a larger international ring of thieves and dealers."

Israeli Memorial Smuggles Murals. Washington Post. June 20, 2001
"In a secret operation, Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial has smuggled out of Ukraine fragments of murals by Polish-Jewish artist Bruno Schulz, sparking an international controversy. Yad Vashem maintains it was merely exercising its right to preserve the works of a prominent Jewish writer, artist and Holocaust victim, but Ukrainian and Polish officials say their removal was a crime."

An Ugly Real-Life Drama for Producer Garth Drabinsky
.
Business Week
, Septembe 29, 1998
"Garth Drabinsky's torturous fall from grace at Broadway production company Livent Inc. over the past four months has been one of the theater world's most spectacular declines. The wunderkind who brought the current hit Ragtime to the elegantly refashioned Ford Center in New York City had long been known as a lavish spender. But his indefinite suspension in August as Livent's creative director and vice-chairman -- amid allegations of 'serious' accounting irregularities -- stunned theater insiders. Lately, it has spawned frenetic legal action ... Embarrassingly, the news of Drabinsky's suspension, along with that of Vice-President and longtime Drabinsky associate Myron Gottlieb, was made public promptly that morning. A Livent press release damningly reported that 'an internal investigation has revealed serious irregularities' in company records that had been uncovered late the prior week. The release, which made news across North America, said 'millions of dollars' were involved and added that it was 'virtually certain' that results for 1996, 1997, and early 1998 would have to be restated."

Auction House Agrees to Settle Civil Lawsuits.
Art in America
, November 2000
"Sotheby's and Christie's recently agreed to a settlement in the civil lawsuits brought against them by art buyers and sellers. According to the agreement, the auction houses will pay a total of $512 million to customers who accused them of fraud in a 1997 price-fixing scheme ... According to the Wall Street Journal, Sotheby's reached a separate agreement with its former chairman A. Alfred Taubman [who is Jewish, and a real estate mogul], requiring him to pay $156 million of the company's $256-million share of the civil settlement. He will also pay $30 million to the company's shareholders in a separate security-fraud lawsuit. The burden of Taubman's fines, however, will likely be offset by the increased value of his substantial holdings in Sotheby's stock, which has been soaring in the wake of news of the settlement."

Los Angeles Police Department Press Release, Los Angeles Police Department [Media Relations Section], August 16, 1999
"On 8/13/99, a museum art thief was convicted of thefts of fine art from two Los Angeles museums. Nureet Granott, 50, used a fake driverís license, a fraudulent credit card, and fictitious rental agreement information to gain control of over $22,000 of art through the art rental galleries of the UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art and the L.A. County Museum of Art in 1995. She then disappeared with the art until detectives of LAPDís Art Theft Detail uncovered her true identity and tracked her down three years later at her fashionable home in Beverly Hills where she was using the art to decorate the house. During the investigation, the detectives uncovered a pattern of fraudulent practices that were facilitated through the use of various names, business DBAs and anonymous mail box addresses. These were used to fleece others for an estimated $100,000 in goods and services - from a luxury car to pet bills. During the museum thefts, Granott assumed the identity of her sister, Hanit Peretz, who is living in Israel. During many of the transactions, Granott was accompanied by her husband, David Yehuda Cohen. Both are also suspected of being involved in questionable real estate transactions. During the search warrant, detectives noted the personalized license plate of their vehicle to be 'EARN BIG.'"

Do You Have My Genuine Fake Derein?
,
St. Petersburg Times
, July 16, 2000
"While foraging at one garage sale, I paid a few bucks for a book called FAKE!, a biography of Elmyr de Hory, perhaps the greatest art forger of all time. De Hory was a Jewish Hungarian aristocrat and would-be artist who lived in Paris in the 1920s. He hobnobbed with Picasso, Matisse, Van Dongen, Modigliani, Vlaminck and Derain. During World War II, De Hory's parents were killed and the family riches confiscated. He was stranded in Paris with no allowance -- but an undiminished taste for high living. According to his account, a rich friend mistook one of his line drawings on his wall for a Picasso. She offered him 40 British pounds for it and resold it to a London art dealer for 150 pounds. That launched a 20-year forgery career. Never successful with his own work, De Hory cranked out a prodigious body of fakery. He could mimic almost all of his old acquaintances. To sell his fakes, he'd drop hints that his father had amassed a private collection in the 1930s that was later smuggled out of Hungary. He sold to art dealers and museums. His work started showing up in art books as originals. He forged so many Dufys that an expert once rejected two real Dufys as fraudulent because he mistakenly assumed that De Hory's hand and style were the correct ones. He finally was caught in 1967 and spent a few months in a Spanish jail."



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