A highly regarded Swiss curator from the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Switzerland has been implicated in the lawsuit and scandal surrounding the sale of forgeries by the now defunct Knoedler & Company gallery in New york. The gallery abruptly closed in 2011 after over $80m worth of forgeries were sold.
Frank Fertitta III a Las Vegas billionaire is suing Oliver Wick, currently the curator at the Swiss museum Kunsthaus Zurichaccused, for authenticating a painting attributed to the American Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko. It later transpired that it was a forgery.
Several people are accused over the sale of the $7.2 million “Untitled (Orange, Red and Blue)” painting, sold in 2008. The gallery closed its doors after 150 years when it was found to be selling dozens of forgeries by several well known abstract painters, including, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning.
Oliver Wick, who is considered to be one of the worlds authorities on Rothko was paid $300,000 by the gallery to authenticate the work. According to court documents, it is alleged that Wick “was aware of substantial evidence that the painting was a forgery.” “Wick did not conduct an independent search into the provenance of the Rothko.” In other documents Wick wrote; “I confirm that this work has been submitted to the team, all is perfectly fine, otherwise I would not want to be involved with it.” The painting was also exhibited at the Fondation Beyeler museum in Switzerland, where Wick was a curator, adding to its provenance.
The lawsuit also names Michael Hammer, Knoedler’s owner and its former director, Ann Freedman, who claims to have been completely unaware that she was selling forgeries. Ms Freedman has recently set up her own independent art business. The dealer who brokered the paintings to Knoedler, Glafira Rosales, a Long Island art adviser has pleaded guilty to fraud charges. The fakes were created by a Chinese artist from Queens over a 14 year period.
Photo: L Rothko Untitled R Curator Oliver Wick