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Main Menu, The Dark Side

August Edition

Marcel Lazar Lehel – this hacker, who broke into the email accounts of numerous US and European leaders, was sentenced to 4 years in jail by a Romanian court.  Lehel, whose hacker handle was Guccifer, is best known for informing the world that George W. Bush was spending a great deal of his post-retirement time painting.  In addition, Lehel leaked sensitive material related to Colin Powell, Hilary Clinton, George Tenet and others.

Luke Brugnara – this 50 year old convicted tax evader and trout poacher (trout poacher?) has been charged with mail fraud; accusing him of taking delivery of the works and then failing to pay for them.  It appears he falsely claimed that he had $11 million to buy artwork.  In April, Brugnara agreed to pay $7.3 million for 16 works by de Kooning and about $3 million for works by Degas, Luks and Miro from New York art dealer Rose Ramey Long (who got them from other dealers).  Long accompanied the works to Brugnara’s home to make sure they arrived.  When she got there, he asked that the works be placed in his garage (red flag number one).  Then Long entered the home and it was almost empty (red flag number two).  Finally the dealer offered special tools to open the crate and Brugnara stated he was too busy (red flag number three).  Oddly, the dealer left the works and then tried to collect the funds and as you might guess, there was no money.  The most recent update is that of the 5 crates sent to Brugnara, 4 were recovered, but the last crate (with the Degas) is still missing.  Like we always say, leopards never change their spots.

Pastor Kevin Sutherland – on April 8 a jury found this pastor guilty of second-degree attempted grand larceny for trying to sell some fake Damien Hirst paintings to undercover police officers.  In May he was sentenced to 6 months in jail and five years of probation.  Sutherland bought the paintings (thinking they were real) from Vincent Lopreto (a California dealer who admitted he flooded eBay with forged Hirst works).  In 2013, Sutherland first attempted to sell one of the works at Sotheby’s … but it was rejected after the Hirst studio determined it was a fake.  He then tried to sell all the works to undercover detectives for $185,000 … never disclosing the fact that the Hirst studio rejected one of them.  Greed rears its ugly head again.

Gardner Stolen Art – it has been 24 years since the theft of 13 important works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  In a recent television interview, FBI agent Geoff Kelly has confirmed that the case is still going strong and that over the years there have been sightings of the missing works … sorry, that made me laugh – sightings!  All I could think about were UFOs!!

Haring & Warhol – there have been a number of recent articles about the flood of fake Warhol and Haring works hitting the market — many coming through online auction sites like eBay.  We all knew that once the committee’s disbanded this was likely to happen and it did not take very long.  In this instance, it was a dealer who was stung and like they always say — when something is too good to be true, it probably is.


Since we are on the topic of fakes, I want to stress the need for our government to take action on the current bill that is supposed to protect experts.  If not, there are going to be many more stories like this and many unhappy buyers.  To read more about this bill please use the following link:Proposed Bill

About Alyssa T. Rehs

Alyssa Rehs is a fourth generation Art Dealer at her family owned art galleries, Rehs Galleries, Inc. and Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City, New York. She received an Art History degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2012 as well as interned at Christie’s Auction House, New York City. Using her art historian degree, gallery experience, and a summer spent working at the auction house, she has a well rounded understanding of the art market. Alyssa appreciates the market from multiple standpoints; art lover, art buyer and art seller!


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