Days after Manhattan’s 165-year-old Knoedler & Co. art gallery unexpectedly closed, a London hedge-fund executive sued it and its former director, Ann Freedman, accusing them of selling a forged Jackson Pollock painting.
Pierre Lagrange, a co-founder of GLG Partners Inc., said in a complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court that he paid $17 million for a painting called “Untitled 1950” from Knoedler in November 2007 that the gallery said was by Pollock.
When Lagrange tried to resell it in 2010, according to the complaint, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s Inc., New York’s two major art auctioneers, refused to take it because of concerns about its authenticity. An unnamed consulting company hired by Lagrange concluded in a report last month that the painting was a fake, according to the complaint.
Freedman, who left Knoedler two years ago and now runs FreedmanArt gallery, didn’t return calls or e-mails seeking comment on Lagrange’s claims. Lagrange didn’t return a call and e-mail.
“The allegations of misrepresentation are completely baseless,” said Kathleen Blomquist, a spokeswoman for Knoedler. She said the gallery is still reviewing the complaint, and it isn’t related to the closing.
Knoedler, founded in 1846 by Michael Knoedler, closed on Nov. 30, according to its website.
“This was a business decision made after careful consideration over the course of an extended period of time,” the website said.
The complaint said Knoedler closed a day after Lagrange gave the gallery the report saying the Pollock was fake.
When Lagrange bought the purported Pollock, it was not listed in Pollock’s catalogue raisonne, the directory of his work. The defendants “falsely represented to Mr. Lagrange, directly and indirectly, that the Pollock ‘Catalogue Raisonne’ was in the process of being updated and the revised version would include the work,” the complaint said.
There were no definitive plans to revise the catalogue raisonne, the complaint said, adding that that’s why Knoedler hadn’t been able to sell the painting for seven years.
Lagrange is seeking at least $15.3 million -- his purchase price less the $1.7 million commission he paid to two intermediaries -- plus punitive damages.
The case is Lagrange v. Knoedler Gallery LLC, 11-CIV-8757, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).