the Knoedler scandal


The e-mail that brought the art world’s latest scandal to light came to Knoedler last November 29. It disclosed the results of forensic tests done to a Jackson Pollock painting, Untitled 1950, that the gallery had sold in 2007 for $17 million to Pierre Lagrange, a London hedge-fund multi-millionaire. Done in the painter’s classic drip-and-splash style and signed “J. Pollock,” the modest-size painting (15 inches by 281 1/2 inches) was found to contain yellow paint pigments not commercially available until about 1970. This was discouraging, since the painter’s fateful car crash had occurred on August 11, 1956. Lagrange wasn’t just discouraged. He was furious. Fiftyish, given to long brown locks and blue jeans, he had startled London society in 2011 by leaving his wife and three children, only to take up with a 42-year-old male fashion designer named Roubi L’Roubi. Selling the painting had been part of his effort to divide assets in connection with a divorce settlement that might be one of the largest in British history. Now he was giving Knoedler 48 hours to agree to reimburse him or face a lawsuit. To the art world’s astonishment, the venerable gallery simply pulled its brass doors shut. (Knoedler has said that the closing was a business decision unrelated to the Lagrange suit.)

more from Michael Shnayerson at Vanity Fair here.