Exclusive: How George Condo fights counterfeiters

In 2018, Apartment George had become one of the most sought after living artists, abandoned by the world’s wealthiest and most powerful collectors. With new works being sold on the primary market only to top patrons of the arts, the only option for many would-be condo owners was to spend a fortune on an auction. Demand was so crazy that even dotted designs priced in the five figures were selling for up to $400,000.

In November, one of these drawings – a small work in black and white – was entrusted by “a private collection in Greece” to Sotheby’s. It was estimated to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000 at the auction house’s Contemporary Art Day sale but, shockingly, found no Buyer. Turns out Sotheby’s dodged a bullet. The oldest auction house in the world did not know at the time that the work was not worth nearly $120,000.

It was wrong.

This condo work and several others are now in the possession of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, True Colors can reveal, as they were created as part of a forgery ring that produced works that have been circulating in recent times. years through private collectors, major auction houses. , and mega-galleries. They came at a particularly savvy point in Condo’s career, as he had achieved a status as a big-tent pop culture crossover that few contemporary museum co-signed painters have ever done. Condo designed the artwork for Kanye Westthe 2010 album, My beautiful dark and twisted fantasy, and in his track “Picasso Baby”, Jay Z rapped about having “condos in my condos”. Hope they were real.

“George is a famous and world-famous artist, and it is regrettable but unsurprising that an artist of his caliber should be subject to attempts to profit from his success illegitimately,” Christopher Canizares, a partner at Hauser & Wirth, Condo’s gallery since early 2020, told me this week. “The art world has seen this in the past, with artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Picasso and many more, and we are very pleased that the DA is taking the appropriate action.”

In conversations with a number of sources close to the fraud – collectors duped by the scheme; Condo studio reps are stunned by the quality of the fakes; and the resellers of its galleries – an image has emerged of a criminal enterprise parallel to the opaque but legitimate resale of real condos. In addition to the work that ended up at Sotheby’s, other works later found to be fake were sold at regional auction houses and, once sent to Condo for inspection, the artist denied that they were his.

When emailed for comment, Condo’s studio account replied with an auto-reply stating that the artist would not check his email until February 15. I left my number. Later that evening I received a call from Richard Golub, Condo’s longtime advocate and a fixture in the art world, known for his aggressive fight against counterfeit images. He immediately confirmed that the studio had correctly identified the fake works and turned them over to the Manhattan prosecutor.

“Counterfeits circulate and are sold for almost all artists. There are counterfeit paints for everyone, and the market is flooded with counterfeits,” Golub said. “We were told that in 2018 there were fake George Condos out there, and indeed there were fakes.”

These days, the Condo market is almost as hot as it was four years ago. His biggest collectors include a billionaire trader Steve Cohen, Co-founder of Groupon Eric Lefkofsky, and titan of hedge funds David Ganeck. But the whole act of maintaining stratospheric numbers for graphite-on-paper drawings could be undone knowing that a factory of fake makers exists in the land of Olympus, mysteriously pumping out fugazi condos.

“Apparently there are still fakes out there,” said a collector who was offered work in the scam. “Remember a few years ago when Condo’s paper works were flying? These guys were selling all this time.

When asked if the works were all from Greece, Golub said yes and offered the same unmistakably Hellenic name that other sources have identified. Golub said he was “the person who seems to me to be at the center of it all”.

Who he is, exactly, is less clear. I didn’t know the name, as did nearly half a dozen art advisors who were deeply involved in the secondary co-ownership business circa 2018. The name and another known alias don’t have much of a digital footprint, and he did not respond to an email address provided by a source.

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