Second Suit Accuses Knoedler Gallery of Selling Fake Art

A South Carolina family filed a $25 million lawsuit in Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday against what had been New York’s oldest art gallery, Knoedler & Company, charging that the dealer and its former president conspired to sell it a fake Mark Rothko painting.
It is the second multimillion-dollar civil suit involving a painting believed to be forged that buyers have brought against Knoedler since the gallery abruptly closed four months ago.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been investigating at least two dozen paintings supplied by a Long Island dealer named Glafira Rosales and sold by Knoedler and another New York dealer. The works are attributed to Modernist masters like Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and others, but several experts have called them forgeries. One, purportedly by Robert Motherwell, has been branded a forgery in a court settlement.
According to the new lawsuit, Domenico and Eleanore De Sole bought a Rothko painting, “Untitled 1956,” in 2004 for $8.3 million from Knoedler’s former president, Ann Freedman. A forensic analysis of the painting commissioned by the De Soles found that some of the materials and markings were “inconsistent and irreconcilable with the claim” that the painting was done by Rothko, according to the suit, which also names Ms. Freedman as a defendant.
The De Soles contend that Ms. Freedman misled them about whether “Untitled 1956” was going to be included in the definitive compendium of Rothko’s work known as the catalogue raisonné, and that she gave them a written assurance that several experts, including Rothko’s son, Christopher, had authenticated the painting when they had only briefly viewed it.
They also say that Ms. Freedman told them she personally knew the Swiss owner of the Rothko. Ms. Freedman has testified that Ms. Rosales never revealed the name of the owner to the gallery.
The De Soles say in their lawsuit that they were misled into buying “a canvas that is unsalable and worthless.”
A spokesperson for the gallery said in a statement, “Any suggestion that Knoedler defrauded these or any other of its valued clients is baseless and irresponsible.” Knoedler’s lawyer, Charles D. Schmerler, added: “This painting was carefully examined at the express request of Knoedler Gallery by many of the world’s leading experts on the work of Mark Rothko, including renowned gallery owners and museum curators. Not one so much as questioned its authenticity.”
A London collector, Pierre Lagrange, sued Knoedler in December, charging that a Pollock he had bought for $17 million was fake.