She went from being president of one of the most prestigious art galleries to a key figure in one of the most notorious art scams in history.
For years, Ann Freedman was the director of Knoedler Gallery, the oldest private art gallery in New York City and considered one of the nation's finest since its founding in 1846.
Freedman's tenure came the a crashing halt amid increasing concern that numerous works she helped sell had been fakes, forged in the styles of prominent abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. From 1994 to 2009, Freedman oversaw the sales of roughly $80 million worth of bogus artwork, a tale that's examined in Netflix’s documentary “Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art.”
During the long-running scam, Freedman purchased numerous paintings on behalf of Knoedler from a supposed Long Island art dealer named Glafira Rosales. Rosales, allegedly with help of her boyfriend Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, was commissioning the forgeries from a Chinese artist living in Queens named Pei-Shen Qian, who created the art in his garage. While Qian was typically paid a few thousand for each painting, Rosales often sold the paintings for millions of dollars to Knoedler, which would in turn sell them for even more money.
Freedman, who is featured prominently in the new documentary, maintains that she was unaware the works were forged, insisting she was just as much a victim of Rosales' lies.
“It was credible, to me,” she said in the film. “I believed what I was told. There was a mystery, but there’s often mystery in provenance. I hoped to solve that mystery as time went on.”
Freedman resigned from her post at the gallery in 2009 after 31 years of working there. Two years later, news of the scandal began to become public and the gallery closed as unwitting customers began to file fraud lawsuits against both the gallery and Freedman.
Most of the suits were settled out of court, but one — brought by Domenico De Sole, the chairman of Tom Ford International and Sotheby's, and his wife Eleanor — went to trial. That case was ultimately also settled, in 2015, shortly before Freedman was scheduled to testify.
Where is Freedman now?
Despite the hit to her reputation, Freedman has not left the art world. She opened up her own art gallery, called FreedmanArt in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 2011.
“Our commitment is to the artist, and to bringing art and collector together,” the website for the gallery states. “FreedmanArt serves to educate the public with an active exhibition program, guided by invitational artist exhibitions and special project conceptions, both historical and new.”
Freedman’s name is listed at the top of the gallery’s current staff. Their latest exhibition appears to have been a Fall/Winter Exhibition which spread from 2019 until 2020.
Oxygen.com has reached out to the gallery but they have not returned a request for an interview or comment.
Rosales pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion in 2013, and was sentenced to time served. Pei-Shen Qian was indicted, but fled back to China, where he apparently still lives. Bergantiños Diaz, Rosales' boyfriend, was also indicted by federal prosecutors and was arrested in Spain, but a judge ruled against his extradition to the U.S.
Freedman was not convicted of any crime.
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