Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2020) was so engaging that you soon forget that it is not fiction, and is actually a documentary based on true incidents. To learn that the best of the best, the experts in the field of art could have been so easily fooled for two decades in a scam worth $80 million was unbelievable. Fictitious works like The White Collar pale in comparison to this real story. The documentary is available on Netflix.
In 1995, an unknown art dealer, a lady by the name Glafir Rosales, approaches Ann Freedman, New York’s renowned art dealer and director of the 165 years old Art Gallery Knoedler for 30 years, to show Ann a hitherto unseen, unknown, undocumented work of the famous abstract artist Mark Rothko. It had no provenance – in the art world that’s the paper trail showing all the previous owners of the painting, kind of a family tree going all the way to the artist’s studio – Glafir claimed that the painting and others in the collection were owned by a private collector from Mexico who wishes to remain anonymous – most of the experts who saw the painting rated it as beautiful and didn’t raise a flag. And that’s how one of the massive frauds in America’s art scene started and ran for the next twenty years.
After the work from Rothko, there were works from other famous artists like Jackson Pollock that were similarly bought and sold for high prices. Over the years, Knoedler made a profit of $30 Million and Ann Freedman over $10 Million. The documentary shows how pride, arrogance, greed, and the lust to own something that was unique led everyone to be fooled.
“Either she was complicit in it, or she was one of the stupidest people to have worked at an art gallery.” – M.H. Miller of The New York Times says of Ann Freedman
In the end, the massive fraud didn’t lead to anyone directly being held responsible. Instead, all ten cases were settled with Glafir Rosales serving nine months for her tax frauds around not declaring the profits she made; Ann Freedman claiming she was innocent and continues to be an art dealer; Galfir’s boyfriend and probably the mastermind behind the scam in Spain; the artist, a talented artist himself and a maths professor who made the fake paintings is safely in China behind the reaches of US law.