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Arts and Culture

Art Dealer Nabbed in $88 Million Swindle

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Posted on Mar 26, 2009
De Niro Sr.
AP photo / Michel Spingler

Robert De Niro poses in 2005 next to an image of his father, artist Robert De Niro Sr., on a poster at La Piscine Museum in Roubaix, France. The actor is accusing art dealer Lawrence Salander, who was arrested Thursday, of stealing a dozen of his late father’s paintings in 2007.

It appears to be game over for Manhattan art dealer and gallery owner Lawrence Salander, who was arrested Thursday morning and accused of stealing $88 million from various art world players, institutions and investors, including tennis champ John McEnroe.

AP via Google News:

Lawrence B. Salander used the money to try to corner the Renaissance art market and to support an extravagant lifestyle that included private jet travel, a lavish party for his wife at New York’s Frick Collection museum, and the purchase and maintenance of his Manhattan town house and a 66-acre estate, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.

Morgenthau said Salander defrauded a total of 26 victims in two primary ways:

In one, he sold artwork not owned by him and kept the money. The district attorney said Salander sometimes sold a piece of art owned by someone else several times.

“Why sell it just once when you can sell it three times?” Morgenthau said.

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CJ's avatar

By CJ, March 29, 2009 at 8:12 pm Link to this comment

On the other hand, “’Why sell it just once (to status-seekers, who don’t likely know a Courbet from a Gorky, or Maxim from Arshile, for that matter) when you can sell it three times (to same)?’”

Were Stuart Davis and Arshile Gorky (who was not an Abstract Expressionist anymore than was de Kooning. Both painters, by the way, far better than any Abstract Expressionist) still with us, I’m certain they’d appreciate exquisitely rich irony in connection with Salander’s sense of humor.

What swindle? Different than the one perpetrated when one forks over seriously hard-earned dough to view tedious tennis match performed by brats or same tired movie?

Mr. McEnroe might want to get back to abusing center “court” referees and linesmen while swatting at yellow balls with a “racket.” Mr. De Niro to shoot-em-ups.

See, it’s like this, John, and both Bobs, and you too, Earl…

Never mind, since what’s the use if/when you regard paintings first in commodity-fetish terms.

I suppose prosecution of Mr. Salander is wearily necessary if fine art made over course of human history is not to be emptied of only “value” that remains. And for the sake of painters—as opposed to fetish-minded dealers and collectors—trying to make paintings while scraping by performing lousy-paying jobs that none of aforementioned ever had to do for more than a year or two, if for that long.

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By cyrena, March 29, 2009 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment

I ditto Ed Harges.

But, if he had to steal from anybody, it couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate PRICK than John McEnroe.

Now THAT’s a cheerful thought.

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By NYCartist, March 27, 2009 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Artists have been cheated by galleries.  I just googled to refresh my memory.  Mark Rothko’s estate sued Marlborough Gallery and the case (with gallery owner convicted in 1983, after an 11 year case).  Irony is that many artists, most artists, do not have galleries representing them.  It is not that uncommon for galleries to cheat artists when reporting sales and giving the artist her/his “share” (ever shrinking).  Best to have a good contract.

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Ed Harges's avatar

By Ed Harges, March 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment

This is simply an extreme example of the current economic disease of America: everyone wants to live like a millionaire for the rest of his or her life off the proceeds from selling a lucky-find asset, not through creating actual goods or providing actual services.

Everybody wants to sell a house (bought with borrowed money), or a painting, or something bought at a flea market for two dollars, and then retire in comfort and splendor at age 35. Nobody wants to work or produce anything.

It’s the “Antiques Road Show” economy.

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