Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- A Long Island, New York, art dealer who sold the Knoedler Gallery undocumented paintings attributed to Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock threatened to stop if she were questioned about her source, according to a filing in Manhattan federal court.
“Don’t kill the goose that’s laying the golden egg,” Glafira Rosales told Ann Freedman, the former director of the now-closed Knoedler, according to Freedman’s sworn declaration filed in court last week.
Domenico De Sole, chairman of Tom Ford International, and his wife, Eleanore De Sole, sued Freedman, Rosales, the gallery and its chairman, Michael Hammer, earlier this year. The De Soles bought a Rothko for $8.3 million in 2004 that they discovered later was a fake, they said in their complaint.
Hammer, Knoedler and Freedman asked a judge in a Nov. 1 court filing to dismiss the complaint.
Anastasios Sarikas, Rosales’ lawyer, disputed that his client made the “golden egg” comment. “Her English is so limited and cautious,” he said in an interview. “My client is incapable of making such an absurd statement.”
Sarikas said Hammer made the comment, not Rosales, which Freedman scribbled on a sheet of paper, a copy of which was part of the court filing. As his source, Sarikas cited a July suit by John Howard, chief executive of Irving Place Capital, concerning a Willem de Kooning for which he paid $4 million. The complaint attributed the “golden egg” comment to Hammer. The Freedman note was first introduced in a now-settled December 2011 suit by hedge fund executive Pierre Lagrange.
Sarikas’s assertion contradicts Freedman’s sworn declaration. Sarikas declined to say whether Rosales denied she made the golden egg comment.
“You’re treading into privileged information,” he said.
Chris Orlando, a spokesman for the gallery, said the note isn’t connected to Hammer. “The attempt to include Mr. Hammer in this matter is absolutely unsupportable, irresponsible and simply an effort to sensationalize the case,” he said in an e-mail.
From 1998 to 2008, the gallery sold almost 40 works from Rosales, netting almost $40 million in profit, the De Soles said in a filing.
“Hammer rewarded Freedman lavishly based upon Knoedler’s outsized profits from selling the counterfeit works,” according to the De Soles’ filing.
Luke Nikas, a lawyer with Boies, Schiller & Flexner who represents Freedman, said in an interview that she sold no more than 25 artworks from Rosales. Freedman told the De Soles that an unnamed Swiss collector had bought the Rothko directly from the artist and because the collector died, Knoedler was selling it on behalf of the collector’s son, according to the complaint.
The gallery, which closed a year ago, bought the Rothko from Rosales and relied on her word about provenance, the complaint said. Freedman said in a letter to the De Soles’ daughter Laura that was filed in court that the painting was viewed by a number of art experts. Whether each of the experts viewed the painting, and how closely, is in dispute.
Freedman continued to push Rosales about the source of her art, Freedman said in the court declaration.
“I never stopped investigating and pressing for every possible piece of information about the works Rosales brought to Knoedler,” Freedman said.
Nikas said Freedman believes all the Rosales works she sold were authentic. She didn’t disclose Rosales’s identity to customers to protect her source.
“Other dealers would try to poach these works because of the quality,” Nikas said.
Sarikas declined to say where Rosales got the artwork. He cited a federal investigation into the sale of forged works.
“How can she defend herself in a civil case when she knows everything she says can and will be used against her?” Sarikas asked.
He added that Rosales never sold any works she knew to be fake. “If any of those works turn out to be a forgery, my client didn’t know it was so,” he said.
The case is De Sole v. Knoedler Gallery, 12-cv-2313, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, (Manhattan).
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