An art dealer in Florida, Daniel Elie Bouaziz, has been charged with wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering, after supposedly selling fake works of art which he claimed to be by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse and Banksy.
Daniel Elie Bouaziz, a French citizen, owns two galleries: Danieli Fine Art and Galerie Danieli. Both are located on Worth Avenue, an upscale area of Palm Beach, Florida, which has become a favourite location for prestigious art galleries and dealers. Bouaziz has allegedly been selling reproductions of artworks which were stamped with fake seals of authenticity, many of which it has been revealed he purchased via LiveAuctioneers for very little money, which he then sold as genuine works by famous artists.
In 2021, after numerous complaints from his clients who believed they had been deceived, the FBI began monitoring his activities. In an undercover operation, an agent purchased a print from Bouaziz for $25,000 which the dealer claimed to be by Lichtenstein, despite the fact he had purchased it for €450 via LiveAuctioneers. Bouaziz also sold the undercover agent a Warhol Superman print, saying that “I really gave you a fantastic price […] You can only make money”. A final sale Bouaziz made to an agent, the most expensive of all, was an unnamed painting he purchased for $495 on LiveAuctioneers which he sold as by Basquiat for a staggering $12 million.
Numerous customers have reported Bouaziz. The criminal complaint against him noted that, “Bouaziz represented to the victims that he was an official appraiser and art expert”. One of his victims spent $85,000 on what they believed to be a print by Warhol, which was in fact a $100 reproduction. Another believed they had managed to purchase works by Lichtenstein, Matisse and a Warhol for the total price of $290,000, which a New York gallery director later informed them that this “Holy Grail” was “too good to be true”.
According to The New York Post, Bouaziz’s attorney, Howard Schumacher, has said that Bouaziz has a “longstanding reputation as an honest dealer” and that “art prices are inherently subjective”. Schumacher has also said Bouaziz plans to plead not guilty, and that “the intrusion by the government has had an impact on his reputation and he wants to clear that.”