A 28-year-old Washington art dealer is one of three men arrested in Nassau County, N.Y. earlier this week for the alleged forgery and sale of 200 lithographs attributed to Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder and Salvador Dali. Police estimate that more than $3 million in fraudulent transactions is involved.
Andrew Weiss of 2400 41st St. NW was charged with third-degree grand larceny in connection with the sale of fraudulent Calder lithographs for $1,100 to Nassau Galleries in Baldwin, L.I., police said.
Second-degree grand larceny charges were also filed against Milton Magidson of New York City and his gallery, Milton Magidson Associates; Richard Greenberg and his Metro Art Sales of Lake Success, L.I., print distributors, were charged respectively, with falsifying certificates of authenticity and a scheme to defraud in the first degree.
All three were released on their own recognizance pending a trial date.
According to his attorney, Sidney Chase of Nassau County, N.Y., Weiss, who has worked as a wholesale print distributor in Washington for several years, "got caught in the middle."
"It's fairly simple," said Chase. "Weiss bought art from Charles Piovenetti, a New York City art dealer, and sold it to a dealer named Milton Magidson, and Magidson sold it to various Long Island Art galleries..
This is a multimillion-dollar-a-year industry which my client is only on the fringes of. Everybody in this business knows what's been going on."
Rumors had been circulating since last December when a Nassau County grand jury began this investigation into one of the biggest American print fraud cases of the decade. Most of the printing was done in the New York area, according to Nassau County police.
Instrumental in pressing the case and providing expert witnesses for the grand jury investigation was Galerie Maeght of Paris, Barcelona and Zurich, which sells works by Miro, Chagall and Calder. Maeght opened a New York office last fall "in large part to clear the air quickly because collectors who pay as much as $8000 for a Chagall lithograph are worried," said Arnold Herstand, director of the New York office.
Maeght currently has three civil suits pending involving fakes which they will not discuss. "We are not saying anything," said an aide who answered the busy Maeght phonwe yesterday afternoon.
But in an interview last month, Herstand spoke guardedly of the case and said one of the first real "fakes" had turned up at Art '78,held at the D.C. Armory last May. Fair organizer Elias Felluss confirmed the story, and according to Felluss the alleged "fake" belonged to Weiss.
"Weiss had left a Miro on consignment in the booth of Alan Klevit, owner of "Art Fair" (which has branches in Silver Spring and Gaithersburg) and someone from Maeght questioned it. I told Klevit at the opening that the print would have to be removed, which it was."
According to Felluss, Weiss later come to his office where the print was being held, and "punched me in the nose." Neither the print nor the signature were authentic, according to Maeght experts.
According to Chase, Nassau County police knew of the incident at Washington's Art '78 fair, but discounted it after an investigation.
Klevit, who says he has known Weiss "since he worked for reputable dealers like Transworld Art and Lublin," said Weiss had never sold him any "fakes," and is "a great kid."
"In fact, I invited him to my daughter's wedding this Sunday. I just hope he doesn't turn up with a Calder lithograph for a wedding present."