Pace Gallery was tricked into buying a $2 million fake Seurat, new lawsuit claims
Pace Gallery was duped into buying a fraudulent drawing by Georges Seurat for $2 million last November, claims the contemporary art juggernaut.
On May 10, the gallery sued seller Jean-Pierre Seurat and others who allegedly worked on his behalf, claiming that Seurat, whom Pace discovered after the sale, was misrepresenting himself as the grandson of the artist, had used misleading, irrelevant and downright fraudulent material. to convince Pace of the authenticity of the drawing.
With “deliberate malice, abuse and intent to harm,” the lawsuit says, Seurat made the deal with the help of art dealer and consultant Constance H. Schwartz, former director and chief curator of the Museum of Art in Nassau County in Roslyn Harbor and a professional who has been “involved in all phases of museum activity”. The Daily Beast has contacted Seurat and Schwartz for comment.
The labor at the center of the dispute is The follower [Le Suiveur], an 1882 conté crayon drawing of a man and woman in an evening boulevard scene, according to documents sent to Pace. On its website, seller looks like the artists “distant cousin;” Pace alleged that he pretended to them to be the artist’s grandson with the express intent of defrauding.
Schwartz, also named as a defendant, contacted Pace last summer with a tempting offer, according to the lawsuit: Schwartz said she was in contact with an anonymous collector in France who might be interested in parting with a Seurat, and if the gallery “deals correctly”, other treasures could soon be up for grabs.
After the deal was struck, Schwartz sent a PDF to Pace containing forged images and documents meant to verify the authenticity of the design, the lawsuit says. According to Pace, among the documents there were elements which falsely demonstrated that the work came from the collection of Félix Fénéon, a famous collector and critic who strongly supported Seurat.
“Not only is the drawing fake, but the seller also appears to be a fake Seurat.”
— Richard Golub
The documents provided by Schwartz “imitate museum documentation,” said attorney Aaron Richard Golub, representing Pace. “What’s unique about this case is that the fake was sold by someone who we believe is faking the very idea of being related to Seurat,” Golub said. “Not only is the drawing fake, but the seller also appears to be a fake Seurat.”
The allegedly forged certificates of authenticity sent to the gallery include a typed message attributed to “Ms. Smeets Sand Dudevant, Fénéon’s granddaughter.
The note reads: “I certify that I own by inheritance from my father Pierre La Brely, French customs expert, this charcoal drawing by Georges Seurat (1859-1891) – The Follower – A man in a nocturnal landscape, in a top hat, follows a young woman wearing a hat. This piece is framed, visible part 23 x 18 cm. On the back of the frame, my father wrote two notes in pencil: ‘Seurat. Le followeur. Charcoal original signed lower left – has been affixed – former collection (Félix Fénéon)” and another expert note: “I certify that this charcoal drawing comes from the collections of Félix Fénéon. It has not been subject to ‘No public sale. It has always remained in the family. LA BRELY-FENEON, Expert for French customs.’
“My father himself owned this work by inheritance from Félix Fénéon, art critic, director of La Revue Blanche then art dealer well known in the art world. Félix Fénéon was my grandfather’s cousin, on my mother’s side.
Art dealer Fabian Dournaux, attorney Mark B. Goldstein, his trade association Mark B. Goldstein, PA and 10 other John Does are also named in the lawsuit as defendants. The Daily Beast has contacted Dournaux and Goldstein for comment.