UPDATED: Knoedler & Co: thanks for ALL the memories

After 165 in business, Knoedler & Co gallery is now closed. The website for the gallery has the following announcement “It is with profound regret that the owners of Knoedler Gallery announce its closing, effective today. This was a business decision made after careful consideration over the course of an extended period of time. Gallery staff will assist with an orderly winding down of Knoedler Gallery.”

Reactions to the announcement have been mixed. For example, Lucy Mitchell-Innes, president of the Art Dealers Association of America is quoted as saying “Goodness me, that’s pretty stunning. My reaction is one of tremendous sadness. This is a very venerable institution that provided great art to a number of the great collections and great institutions in this country.”

According to the New York Times article in the Arts section, although it would have been more appropriate for the Obituary section, Knoedler’s been in business for more than 165 years. Apparently the business “has been rattled by a series of changes over the past three years, including the recession in 2008.” Two years ago, Ann Freedman, who has been with the gallery for 31 years, most recently as its president, resigned. The building where the gallery was housed had to be sold. Lawsuits further strained the financial situation. One of the recent cases involved the Dedalus Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the artist Robert Motherwell, which accused Ms. Freedman of selling forged paintings by Motherwell. Knoedler was also questioned in regards to a sale of a fake Jackson Pollack.

Apparently, the decision to close the gallery came without warning. On December 2, a London hedge- fund executive sued the gallery and its former director accusing them of selling a forged Pollock painting. Co-founder of the hedge fund alleged that he paid $17 million for a painting called “Untitled 1950” from Knoedler in November 2007 and that in 2010 auction houses, Sotheby’s and Christie’s both, refused to take it on consignment because they doubted the works authenticity

It seems that art law put the final nail into the Knoedler business.

Update: There is a Federal investigation underway to find whether there are many more paintings and drawings sold for years by Knoedler that are actually expert forgeries. Source: New York Times.

General Sources: New York Times; Bloomberg; Lagrange v. Knoedler Gallery LLC, 11-CIV-8757, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

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