One of the 10 lawsuits linked to the now-shuttered Knoedler Gallery’s massive forgery scandal has settled.
Billionaire casino mogul and former Ultimate Fighting Championship co-owner Frank Fertitta III settled with Swiss art expert and former Beyeler Foundation curator Oliver Wick in a dispute over his role in the sale of a $7.2 million Mark Rothko that turned out to be a forgery. The work is one of dozens created in the style of Modernist masters by a Chinese immigrant in Queens, most of which passed through Knoedler.
The terms of the settlement, dated April 11 and first reported by the Art Newspaper, were not disclosed. According to the dismissal order, “all claims are voluntarily dismissed with prejudice without costs or fees to any party.”
This past October, Fertitta settled with Knoedler’s former president Ann Freedman, also on undisclosed terms.
Wick’s attorney, David Baum, told artnet News in a statement: “We won the case in Switzerland, where Wick’s name was cleared and we won our legal fees. After that was upheld on appeal, the case in New York had no future.”
Fertitta originally bought the work for $7.2 million in 2008 and resold it in 2011. According to his lawsuit, he first learned that there might be a problem with the painting after reading an Art Newspaper story about the forgery scandal in 2013. He said that when he resold the work in 2011, neither he nor “those working with him in connection with the sale had any reason to doubt the Painting’s authenticity.” Later that year, he reimbursed the buyer $8.5m for the painting ($1.3m more than he originally paid).
Prior to the settlement, Fertitta was scheduled to be deposed on March 31 by Wick’s attorney, according to court documents. An attorney for Fertitta did not immediately respond to artnet News’ request for comment.
Unlike other lawsuits brought in connection with the forgery scheme—all of which targeted Knoedler Gallery, Ann Freedman, and the intermediaries who sold the fakes to Knoedler—Fertitta’s was unusual in pursuing Wick, who is primarily known for his work as a curator and scholar. The complaint alleged that as an intermediary of the sale, he received a $450,000 commission and falsely assured Fertitta that all was “perfectly fine” with painting’s provenance. Fertitta also claimed that Wick failed to do his own independent research.
The only remaining defendant in Fertitta’s suit is Urs Kraft, a Swiss attorney who helped administer the sale on the part of the “undisclosed seller”, according to the complaint. All told, seven of the 10 lawsuits tied to the scandal have settled out of court.
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