"How many 'c's in 'Pollock', again?" The artist at work, 1950

Pollock signature misspelled in the Knoedler case

Major gallerist failed to notice that forgers dropped a crucial 'c' from an abstract expressionist work

At Phaidon, we believe that the key to understanding pictures often lies with words. It's a rule the defendants in the ongoing Knoedler case perhaps wish they'd abided by too.

Last September we reported on how a US art dealer sold on a series of forgeries of works allegedly made by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century, but which were, in fact, faked by a Chinese septuagenarian in his Queens apartment. You can read the story on the left.

Ann Freedman, the former director of the Knoedler gallery, where the works were sold to collectors, has always insisted that she believed the paintings to be genuine. However, a new article, published in the New York Times, suggests that Freedman may not have studied the works quite as closely as she might have wished. 


Mural (1943) by Jackson Pollock
Mural (1943) by Jackson Pollock

Under the headline 'Note to Forgers: Don't Forget the Spell Check' the paper reports that one of the fake Jackson Pollock paintings, bought by Freeman in 2000, bears a signature apparently missing the 'c' from Pollock's surname.

You can view both the fake and the real signature here; letters aside, there are some clear differences. Despite these, Freedman's lawyer insists that Freedman believed the painting, which the gallery subsequently sold on for $2m, was genuine. 

“If Ann Freedman had any questions about these works, she and her husband would not have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in them,” her lawyer has claimed.


Glafira Rosales pleaded guilty to passing the faked works onto he Knoedler gallery
Glafira Rosales pleaded guilty to passing the faked works onto he Knoedler gallery

Yet others aren't quite so convinced. The story concludes with a quote from John Cahill, a lawyer representing a collector who paid $4m for a fake: “Freedman, Knoedler, and their so-called 'experts' claim not to have seen forgeries even when it was literally (mis)spelled out for them.”

To read the article in full, go here. For greater insight into Pollock's life and work, pre-order our Phaidon Focus primer on the artist; and for some equally wise words on how to operate in the art market, buy a copy of Collecting Art for Love, Money and More.