July 6 (Bloomberg) -- The defunct Knoedler Gallery in New York City was sued and accused of selling $37 million in forged paintings.
The buyer, John D. Howard, alleged today in a civil racketeering complaint that in 2007 he paid $4 million for a painting that Ann Freedman, the gallery’s president, said was done in the 1950s by Willem de Kooning. Howard alleges the painting was a forgery done by an associate of Freedman.
The gallery, on East 70th Street in Manhattan, closed last year after 165 years in business. It was the oldest in the city, according to the complaint.
Knoedler employees allegedly misrepresented the ownership history of the painting, falsely claimed experts had authenticated the work, and sold it to Howard for more than five times what the gallery paid for it.
Freedman’s sale of the painting to Howard was part of a larger conspiracy to market at least 20 forged paintings since 2001, totaling sales of more than $37 million, before the gallery closed in late 2011, according to the complaint.
The gallery was sued days after closing over a purportedly forged Jackson Pollock painting. Kathleen Blomquist, a spokeswoman, at that time called allegations of misrepresentation “completely baseless.”
Nicholas Gravante Jr., a lawyer with Boies, Schiller & Flexner in New York who represents Freedman, said he is confident Howard’s case, along with the two others pending, will not succeed.
“This is a copycat case that we believe, like its predecessor, has no chance of success,” Gravante said. “We believe the painting at issue is genuine. But even if it’s not, we are prepared to demonstrate conclusively that Ann Freedman never misrepresented anything to anyone about this or any other Rosales-sourced work.”
Glafira Rosales, also named as a defendant in Howard’s case, supplied Freedman and the gallery with the allegedly forged paintings, according to the complaint.
The case is Howard v. Freedman, 12-cv-05263, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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