An immigrant artist living in Queens, N.Y., has become the epicenter of the art world’s latest scandal.
Fifteen ago, the boyfriend of A Long Island-based art dealer happened upon Pe-Shen Qian, a struggling artist who had recently immigrated from China. Despite previous success in his homeland, Qian had proved unable to attract U.S. dealers and was selling his paintings on the street, ARTFIXdaily notes.
Brought to the attention of the art dealer, Qian soon found himself commissioned to paint a new line of paintings. Not his own, but reproductions of modernist masterpieces by prominent artists, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
The art dealer took the paintings, forged background paperwork and sold them through galleries as the genuine works of great artists. Qian ended up painting more than 100 of these masterpieces.
One gallery, Knoedler & Co, now closed, reportedly sold $63 million worth of forgeries painted by Qian. The art dealer who recruited him received $20 million from those sales. By contrast, Qian was paid less than several thousand dollars for each painting he forged.
The art dealer has been charged with money laundering and wire fraud. She, but not her boyfriend, is under arrest. No one in Queens has seen Qian recently. He may have returned to China. U.S. law enforcement authorities have not charged him in connection with the scandal.
Earlier this year, the FBI used the Internet to track the movement of stolen paintings across the country.