A forgery scandal on the scale of the Old Master fakes and Knoedler Gallery debacles has broken in the United States. Up to as many as 700 fake Jackson Pollock paintings may be circulating the art market according to a report by the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR).
The Foundation has identified four fake Pollocks since 2013. The documentation accompanying the works, which outlines their alleged ‘provenance’ refers to a purported sale of 748 paintings around 1968. This has sparked fears that more forgeries may yet emerge from the woodwork.
The dossier of provenance documents weave an elaborate tale of a German immigrant named James Brennerman who settled in Chicago in the 1940s. Brennerman was said to have purchased the 748 works with his friend Charles Farmer from Jackson Pollock’s widow, Lee Krasner. Pollock only produced around 1,100 artworks over the course of his life so as IFAR reports the ‘suggestion that Lee Krasner would have sold… more than half of his known output, wholesale for cash, simply defies belief’.
Following extensive investigation into the dossier, IFAR concluded not simply that the 1968 sale was fictitious, but the character of Brennerman himself was pure fantasy.
Photos of Brennerman’s estate contained in the dossier were in fact images of the Sforza Castle in Milan, the Neptune fountain in Madrid and the library at Wiblingen Abbey in Ulm, southern Germany. Letters and diaries said to be penned by Brennerman were concocted by the masterminds behind the forgery scandal.
IFAR even surmises that Brennerman’s descent into insanity and reclusion, which is said to be revealed by his later ‘letters’ was a cunning plot twist designed to explain why he never made his art collection public and left it to his servants upon his death. In one such letter, he claims how he expects to be ‘transported to another planet over which I will rule. I am destined to become a god’.
When IFAR conducted tests of the fake paintings it found acrylics had been used. Artists only began working with acrylic paints in the 1980s. Pollock died in 1956.
Among the unsuspecting collectors into whose hands the fake Pollocks have fallen are a strip club owner from Virginia. He claims to have bought two works from Brennerman’s servants. Executive Director of IFAR, Dr Sharon Flescher expects the pool of victims will extend beyond the east coast of America and possibly to Europe as inexperienced collectors succumb to the modest prices at which the fakes are being offered by low-grade art dealers.
“We hope to stop this insidious scam from proceeding further,” IFAR has stated. “The sheer number of potential works involved, and the certain knowledge that more fakes from the ‘Brennerman Collection’ will continue to dupe the unwary, impels us to speak out”.