I’m not sure what’s more shocking, the indictment of Alan Kass, or the fact that an art dealer sold almost $500,000 worth of art. The excerpt from the Sun Times is below, and you can read the full story here.
The owner of a River North art gallery is among three men indicted for selling fake works by Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali and other masters in a scheme that dumped thousands of counterfeit prints onto the market, federal authorities announced Wednesday.
Alan Kass, owner of Kass/Meridian Gallery at 325 W. Huron, reaped more than $480,000 by selling bogus artwork on eBay and other Internet sites, according to the indictment. Some of the works include a lithograph by Chagall, “The Green Bird,” and Dali’s “The Horse and Rider,” “Lady Godiva” and “The Cosmic Horseman.”
Kass, 73, was charged along with employee Sawyer K. Cade, 47, and John Panos, a New York art distributor, prosecutors said.
Kass allegedly acquired the fake art from Panos and Michael Zabrin.
I read this and remembered we were going to do a story on Zabrin. Here are Mari Espinosa’s notes. I think we didn’t flesh this out more because we didn’t have any new information. But here’s a summary of the guy at the eye of the storm.
The prints were forged and then distributed from Florida by Oswaldo Aulestia-Bach, 62 of Spain and Elio Bonfiglioli, 53 of Italy to dealers. The dealers, would then take forgeries and sell them at inflated prices to private collectors or to art galleries. Zabrin admitted in court to buying forgeries for as little as $1000 and then selling them at a much higher cost often through his companies, Fineartmasters and ZFineartmasters.
The fake prints were often numbered and signed in pencil. Forged certificates of authenticity also accompanied many of the work.
According to the Huffington Post, Zabrin said he put up 280 items on eBay, two of which were etchings which he claimed were part of Picasso’s “347 Series” (with the artist’s signature and limited edition numbers). He also said that when some of his customers returned art because they thought they were fakes, he would simply resell them to someone else.
Zabrin had already been sentenced in 1991 to one year in prison after pleading guilty to selling over $800,000 in art forgeries. Since he was released, he continued to conduct several art fraud schemes until he was jailed in 2009.
Several news sources and the prosecutors of the case predicted in early 2010 that Zabrin would face a minimum of 10 years. His projected parole date was June 11, 2011.