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The financier and the fake Pollock

April 15, 2012

May’s Vanity Fair has the story

In 1995, the financier Pierre Lagrange set up his hedge fund, GLG Partners, in London – you can’t make serious money in France, land of 30-hour weeks, jobs for life, pensions at 50. Soon he’d made a fortune, grown his hair long, and thought he ruled the universe.

The con-artist made her move – Ann Freedman, a dealer from New York’s Knoedler art gallery, sold him a Jackson Pollack drip painting, Untitled 1950, for $17M.

          

I know. We can see it’s a fake! But she was good. When he asked why it wasn’t in the catalogue of genuine Bollocks, sorry Pollocks, she said it would be in the next edition, and he believed her! Oh where were the Nigerians?

Normally Lagrange would have gone to his grave happily admiring his forgery. But then a funny thing happened, he discovered his gay side. His boyfriend is the fashion designer Roubi L’Roubi.

      

Some wives tolerate a bit of “bi curious” – less threatening than a mistress – but not Lagrange’s Catherine Anspach. She wanted divorce, a big one – reportedly half his $350M estimated wealth.

To raise cash he sold his London House to Roman Abramovitch, and tried to sell the Pollock. But when the next buyer found it wasn’t authenticated they did tests. It turned out the paint was of a type first sold in 1970 – bad news since Pollock died in a car crash in 1956.

Lagrange went after Freedman, who said she would love to return his money, but there was a tiny problem, she had only owned half when she sold it.  She’d earlier sold the other half to a Canadian collector David Mirvish.  Now Mirvish knows a bit about Pollocks, so he’d paid a lot less than half of $17M for his share. Presumably he’d had an inkling something was wrong. When Lagrange paid top dollar for the whole painting Mirvish had also cleaned up, and he refused to return his share of the profit. So Freedman did what con-artists do when things get too hot – she closed the shop.

Knoedler isn’t just any fly-by-night lock-up. It’s the oldest art gallery in New York. Rockefellers, Mellons, Carnegies and Astors all bought from it. Many other millionaires will be quietly checking the paint on their proud aquisitions.

We await the lawyers.

Jim Thornton

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2012 6:24 pm

    Dear Jim,

    I believe there might be a small mistake on your story. I could be wrong, but this painting might have been made by someone else, my father, Fabio Innecco (www.fabioinnecco.com).

    I am confident to have seen the same painting at his atelier a few years ago. Sure, there could be thousands of similar drip paintings, but the similarities are enormous.

    Unfortunately this type of work comes from an earlyer phase of his work, and we do not recall to whom it was sold to…

    What I know is that a marchand from Rio de Janeiro who passed away a few years ago, sold many of his paintings to galeries and colletors in Europe and the US. Who knows…

    Yours,
    Bruno Innecco

  2. September 15, 2012 8:31 am

    Oooh! That would be so interesting if you could prove it. A photo that would do it. Or maybe a paint test or something from another Fabio Innecco of the same period. Michael Shnayerson was the author of the Vanity Fair piece. He would know who to contact. Do pursue it. And let me know how you get on.

  3. Alexa permalink
    January 23, 2013 5:26 pm

    Hmmm Jim be a dear please and remind me again how we Nigerians become relevant to this story

    • January 23, 2013 7:39 pm

      Sorry. Hope I wasn’t being racist. I was alluding to your countrymen’s fame as con artists. You know, “I just came across £40 million embezzled by President Abacha. If you send me your account details, to help get it out of the country, I’ll give you half!” That one.

      • Alexa permalink
        January 24, 2013 11:28 am

        Not a problem Jim, I guess it wouldn’t have been as humourous had you said “Oh where were the British?” alluding to your countrymen’s (politicians) fame for committing petty cash crimes & fidlling expenses. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your article, albeit nearly a year after it was written. Whatever became of Anne Freedman & this case, do you know?

      • January 24, 2013 7:38 pm

        LOL! I really must chase it up. I bet it’s all embroiled in legal tangles and we won’t hear the outcome for years. If you learn anything do let me know.

  4. Angie permalink
    October 9, 2013 4:28 pm

    Hello Jim,

    Where does the ‘you can’t make serious money in France’ come from? Did you think he’s from France? Not so … he’s from Belgium 🙂

  5. October 9, 2013 8:35 pm

    Angie, I’ve checked and you’re right. But it’s too late to correct now, and anyway not being able to make decent money in the socialist paradise of France fuels my prejudices! So I’m going to leave it. Forgive me. 🙂

    • Angie permalink
      October 9, 2013 8:39 pm

      Hey Jim,

      No problem, just wanted to let you know. I’m Belgian and have no problems whatsoever with your prejudices :-).

  6. robert permalink
    August 8, 2015 7:32 pm

    Strangely, in 2013 (and it’s still true today) there were more millionaires (in euros) in France than in UK (but they were less rich), and more french in the top 100 richest people in Europe than British. Believe me, France is only socialist on paper…. 🙂

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