For a little over a decade, New York’s prestigious Knoedler Gallery, estasblished in 1846, knowingly or unknowingly sold more than $80 million of fake art, making it the largest art fraud in American history.
It’s a fascinating insight into the world of the elite in the art world – the high-end gallery whose one area of weakness was American abstract expressionism, an ambitious gallery director (Ann Freedman), wealthy clients and an arm’s length owner. So when Glafira Rosales walked into the Madison Avenue premises claiming access to privately owned work by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, Ann Freedman was more than a little interested.
What unfolds is a compelling story, engagingly well-told by director Barry Avrich (Prosecuting Evil, David Foster: Off the Record). Freedman followed due process to ascertain authenticity – at least in the early years. But just how could so many experts of the day have been fooled? As the narrative unfolds, however, questions are raised of just how that authenticity – without due provenance – was achieved, leaving a key issue of the culpablity of Freedman and Knoedler owner, Michael Hammer, in the fraud. Yet only Rosales was sentenced, with an unrepentant Freedman, claiming her innocence throughout, continuing to this day as an independent art advisor and agent.
Seduced by need and want, key flaws in Rosales stories were frequently overlooked along with a stubborn refusal to consider mistakes may have been made. Made You Look incorporates interviews with key individuals – Freedman herself, lawyers, journalists, collectors, even Rosales’ former partner, Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz (a known seller of art forgeries!). The result is an enthralling stranger-than-fiction tale. But the burning question – did she or didn’t she know?