Chinese Artist in $80 Million Forgery Scandal Says He’s Innocent

On 22/12/2013 by Site Default

In the 1980s, Pei-Shen Qian, the painter at the center of an $80 million art forgery case, used to set up his easel near Manhattan’s West Fourth Street and hustle.

Qian, a Chinese national living in the U.S. on a student visa, competed with other artists to convince people walking by that they needed their portraits painted. His rate started at $15 and on a good day he’d go home with $200, though he might have to work past midnight to get it. One day, a man offered him $200 to do an imitation of a modern art masterpiece — he can’t recall which master. It was impossible to say no.

The artist and his patron — a man Qian said he knows only as Carlos — are now at the center of a scandal that has upended New York’s art scene. When dealer Glafira Rosales pleaded guilty in September to selling more than 60 fake paintings — most of them through the prestigious Knoedler & Co. gallery — she revealed that every single one of them was the creation of one man, a painter virtually unknown in Manhattan’s salons, working from his modest home in Queens. It was Qian, who says no one was more surprised than he was.

“The FBI said they were done by the hands of a genius,” he said on a recent morning in Shanghai. “Well, that’s me. How strange it feels!”

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