Amagansett homeowner Alec Baldwin is hosting iHeartRadio’s new Art Fraud podcast based on fellow Hamptonite Michael Shnayerson‘s 2012 Vanity Fair article on Manhattan’s now-infamous Knoedler Gallery, which unknowingly, or knowingly — depending on who you ask — sold dozens of Abstract Expressionist forgeries and defrauded collectors out of millions of dollars over nearly two decades. Baldwin’s interest may have been piqued due to his own history as a victim of a fraudulent art sale.
Part of the wildly popular true crime genre of podcasts, brought to the fore by Sagaponack native Sarah Koenig‘s Serial in 2014, the eight-episode Art Fraud series is touted as an “investigative journey through one of the biggest cases of art fraud in US history.” This story, which is also told very well in Barry Avrich‘s 2020 documentary Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art, now streaming on Netflix, explores art world greed, willfulness, gullibility and, in many ways, the fragile credibility of the entire gallery system.
Several of the artists who were forged are among those who lived and worked in the Hamptons, including Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning. East Hampton artist Alfonso Ossorio, former owner of Ron Perelman‘s The Creeks estate, also played an important role in the story, as the original seller of the forgeries, Long Islander Glafira Rosales, said he brokered the deals that eventually landed the paintings in her hands.
In a statement, iHeartRadio explains the show and why the story was particularly scandalous, given the fact that Knoedler Gallery was at its center. “In operation since 1846 and home to some of the cities greatest artists, the gallery’s fortune changed the moment an unassuming woman walked through the door with a canvas under her arm allegedly painted by the Abstract Expressionist master Mark Rothko,” it says. “So began a 17-year relationship that would result in the sale of nearly 40 paintings from the likes of Motherwell, de Kooning and Jackson Pollock totaling more than 80 million dollars. The only problem was that they were all fake.”
Baldwin is no rookie in the podcasting world. He hosted his Here’s the Thing conversation podcast for WNYC Radio from 2011 to 2020, recording more than 150 interviews, before moving it to iHeartRadio, where he continues to produce episodes.
It should be noted that Baldwin may have had a special affinity for hosting Art Fraud since he experienced his own taste of well-heeled art galleries acting in bad faith when NYC art dealer Mary Boone agreed to sell him Hamptons artist Ross Bleckner’s 1996 painting “Sea and Mirror” for $190,000, but she couldn’t get the piece from the collector who owned it, so the dealer had Bleckner paint a copy and gave that to Baldwin in 2010, without his knowledge, instead.
The New Yorker chronicled the story in “Wet Paint,” explaining that Baldwin received the painting signed and dated with the proper inventory number assigned to Bleckner’s original “Sea and Mirror.” Baldwin noticed the difference, and when he asked Boone about it, she said the painting had been cleaned. Then, after five years of owning the painting, Baldwin had it examined by an expert from Sotheby’s who uncovered the fraud, and Bleckner admitted to creating the copy when the actor confronted him about it.
In the end, Boone dodged criminal prosecution due to the statute of limitations on the crime, but she lost a civil suit and was forced to give Baldwin a six-figure settlement in 2017.
Baldwin and Shnayerson are both credited as executive producers of Art Fraud, which aired its first two episodes yesterday, February 1, on iHeartRadio and is available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts. Listen to the preview below.