Dear Kobi —
I appreciated your tales from Chapter 13 of the wonderful variety and diversity of Picasso fakes and fake letters of authenticity.
I assisted in the publicity regarding a bad guy named ABC, whom I exposed on my website www.milwaukeeworld.com for foisting some fake Picassos on the public. I was able to examine the fakes and the fake certificates of authenticity. You can learn a lot from forgeries, as you obviously know.
ABC did some time, but appears to be active in Florida. I have heard from many, many people who have either 1.) bought a fake and wish they had gone to my website first, or 2.) went to my website first and did not buy the fake.
I’m no expert, but some people seem staggeringly naive when it comes to art purchases. Yes, I’ve bought a few paintings and drawings (non-Picasso) when a bit liquored up, but I did my research beforehand.
Good luck with your projects.
Thanks for the kind words. By the way, how is it that you perused our site if you don’t collect Picassos? -Kobi
Dear Dr. Ledor —
You certainly may post my stuff on your website Q&A section. If you go to my website and use the internal search engine for ABC, you’ll find a number of items I posted on the guy. I wrote about him on May 17, 2004, Oct 04, 2004, November 15, 2004, November 22 2004, January 3 2005, January 17, 2004 and March 28, 2005. He’s probably due for another one.
I got word this morning that the FBI is getting quite tired of ABC, and a special agent here in Milwaukee is itching to bring him down. The agent is James Doyle, and he has worked on art cases. (Check out what I wrote about DEF on Halloween. She’s doing time in Club Fed.)
I started writing art fraud / theft stories because of my interest in the subject. It occupies about a tenth of my space — public demand is high, and I feel like I am doing a service. Ostensibly I write about politics; I have been called a gossip columnist and I am ignored by talk radio. I am forever late writing history stories, for which there is a demand. I tell my editor, “history takes time.”
You might want to check out a guy named GHI. The daily papers ignored his crimes, and I wrote stuff on the website until they finally relented — way too late. Then I researched an article for Milwaukee Magazine that put him down for good. His biggest mistake — selling a stolen print to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
Don’t mess with Bud Selig! Sentencing is in May.
I’m tight with a number of dealers here (except the ones I send to jail). I’ve learned a few tricks that the forgers use, too. One dealer had a stash of 19c watermarked paper that could be converted into an original Whistler print in no time. I have a close affiliation with a Russian-born conservator Dmitri Rybchnikov (I think I messed up the spelling of his name.) He has an outfit called American Conservators, and he was the expert witness in the ABC trial. Not just fakes, but “laughable” fakes. His partner, Jeff Farkas, deals in paintings of various levels of quality, and his wife is a professor of Criminology, and was the teacher of FBI agent Doyle. I’ve got a Bierstadt in the office right now on loan from Jeff, who is trying to sell it on behalf of the owners. We’ve created a little gallery upstairs in my very large office space. I have no financial interest in it; it’s just fun to have this stuff around.
If you want to read some stories about rich people being wasteful with foundation money, read my stuff about the JKL Foundation, a local outfit with one of the finest collections of American furniture and decorative arts. These guys hate my guts. They did do a good show — Fakes from the JKL Collection. Great detective work.
You ask about my background — I studied art history and political science at Vassar College, where I was among the first male students. I also took studio courses and learned the techniques of wood and steel engraving, etching, aquatint, and even stone lithography. I spent my spare time going to museums and galleries to look at authentic works of art. I do not believe I have ever knowingly passed by a museum without entering. I’ve seen prints by the thousands, and still get excited by them. So, I can say stuff like, “Chagall’s later hand-colored works are inconsistent.” For crying out loud, Jackson Pollock applied pigment with more control than seen in Chagall’s later prints.
I came to writing quite late in life, having been turned down consistently until I lucked out at age 34 (1988) and they haven’t been able to shut me up since. I was also fortunate that some family friends were collectors. I saw my first Magrittes, Ernsts, Miros, Jasper Johnses in a private residence as a teenager. The portrait of the woman of the house was by Warhol. I remember her writing to Alexander Calder to get permission to repaint her Calder sculpture. I remember a David Smith sculpture from her back yard, and saw it in the National Gallery in October. Heady stuff!
I collect mostly drawings by Wisconsin artists. It’s a fun pursuit. I bought a $500 painting done by a local musician — it was the first painting he had sold, and I was tipsy for that one. I hung it in my house, and an art dealer noticed it and raved about my discovery.
I came rather late in life to the earning of an income (which does not come from writing, let me tell you). I am employed by Zigman Joseph Stephenson, an old-line Public Relations and Governmental Relations firm.
Just to finish my babbling, I am distressed by the gullibility of certain art purchasers and the rapacity of the fraudsters. There is so much decent art work, and so many legitimate dealers that I just cringe when an idiot buys junk from a thief. I think the true joy and value in collecting comes from knowing about what you are buying. It just astounds me that people will spend thousands on an item that upon cursory examination is not right. I would happily be fooled by a good fake, but I am insulted by cheap fakes.
If I may be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
You are truly hilarious, not to mention an altruist. But I have now calculated, based upon your figures, that I am one year older than you, so I hope you start treating me with greater respect. I must say that you made a much wiser decision in going to Vassar just after it went co-ed than my opting to attend Yale right after it underwent the same transformation. The difference was that yours was a predominantly female student body with a few curious boys and mine a predominantly male student body with a few heavily picked-over girls. So it goes. I was a late bloomer anyway and wouldn’t have known what to do with any more girls around….
I’m going to wade through your entire site and the specific links you’ve sent when I have a chance. I also plan on blogging everything you’ve sent me, not only for its content but also for the wonderfully endearing and humorous quality of your prose.
By the way, could you send pix of your discoveries, such as the unknown Wisconsin artist? Contrary to the prevailing opinion that for me there’s only Picasso, I have quite varied artistic tastes, and I’m always interested in beholding new talent….
And, dude, call me Kobi!