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Art Dealer Sued over Sale of Fake Robert Motherwell Painting

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An art fraud case worthy of a movie plot is unfolding in New York’s federal court.

The Dedalus Foundation, which was founded by the late Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell, is suing the New York City art dealer Julian Weissman for selling a fake Motherwell work.

The group has claimed that Weissman tried to pass off the fake as a Motherwell painting “previously undiscovered” in a private collection. The foundation also has alleged that Weissman actually obtained the painting, along with several others, from a Long Island couple long-suspected of trafficking forged artworks.

The case began in February when the Swiss art dealer Marc Blondeu sued both Weissman and the Dedalus Foundation after discovering that a Motherwell painting he bought from Weissman for $650,000, "Spanish Elegy 1953.P.24," was a forgery. Dedalus deemed the now worthless painting authentic before the sale.

According to Dan Weiner, Blondeu's attorney, advanced scientific techniques exposed the forgery.

“Analysis of the pigments in the work detected that the pigments could not have been in existence in the 1950s when Robert Motherwell supposedly painted the work,” said Weiner. “That’s technology that wasn’t around 15 years ago.”

In May, the Dedalus Foundation initiated a $9 million cross-claim against Weissman for lying about the provenance of the painting in an attempt to intentionally pass off the forgery as real.

Weissman allegedly lied to Dedalus that he bought the painting from the collection of the London-based Kuwaiti princess and collector Shaikha Paula al-Sabah. But Dedalus said that the painting actually came from the Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales, whose partner Jose Carlos Begantinos Diaz has been accused of selling forgeries since 1999. The Dedalus Foundation also has claimed that the couple is responsible for forging at least seven Motherwell paintings in the "Spanish Elegy" series.

Glen Colton, who represents Weissman, said his client didn’t know the piece was a fake.

“He’s somebody who simply would never sell any piece of work unless he believed it to be authentic and genuine,” said Colton.