Actor Alec Baldwin is returning to the public spotlight with a podcast about art.
Specifically, the name of his new podcast is Art Fraud. The series, the first two episodes of which dropped today on iHeartRadio, is an investigative report about the forgery ring perpetrated by New York’s Knoedler Gallery in one of the all-time biggest scandals in the U.S. art history.
Art Fraud‘s premier episode begins with a primer on the venerable gallery, founded in 1846. The follow-up chapter is about the career origins of gallery’s last president, Ann Freeman, who still maintains her ignorance of the immense forgery scheme.
Juicy soundbites in the trailer include “the art world it is essentially a money laundering business,” and “the best fakes are still hanging on people’s walls—they don’t even know or suspect that they’re fake.”
Altogether, there will be eight episodes, produced in conjunction with Calvary Media and Baldwin’s company El Dorado Pictures, reports Deadline. The actor is also serving as the series’s executive producer.
Baldwin’s last film, Rust, was forced to halt production last October after a firearm accident in which Baldwin accidentally shot and killed the movie’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, with a prop gun. The gun was not meant to be loaded. No charges have been filed in that incident, though Santa Fe’s Sherriff Office continues to investigate. Just last week, Baldwin’s lawyers moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the script supervisor of the film, who said she had been traumatized by the event.
The latest entry in the wildly popular true-crime podcast genre, Art Fraud is written by Michael Shnayerson based on his Vanity Fair article recounting the legendary Knoedler Gallery’s spectacular fall from grace.
For 17 years, the gallery sold worthless forgeries said to be the works of renowned artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, raking in $80 million off the scheme, all told. When the truth finally came out, the gallery was forced to close abruptly in 2011. The legal fallout from the scandal continued for years.
Art Fraud has promised “never-before-heard interviews with the mastermind behind the years long con,” it said in a statement.
Perhaps that means we’ll finally hear from Glafira Rosales, the Long Island art dealer who came to Knoedler with what she claimed were Abstract Expressionist masterpieces from the estate of a mysterious collector dubbed “Mr. X.” In reality, the canvases were the work of Pei Shen Qian, a painter in Queens.
Qian fled to his native China, and Rosales’s partner, ex-boyfriend Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, and his brother, Jesus Bergantiños Diaz, have successfully avoided extradition from Spain. Following her guilty plea, a judge sentenced Rosales to serve nine months of house arrest and three years probation, and to pay $81 million in restitution to the forgery victims.
Baldwin’s interest in the story may stem from his own negative experience with the art world.
In 2016, he sued dealer Mary Boone for passing off a duplicate painting by Ross Bleckner as the original. Boone denied the claims, but the dispute settled for a seven figure sum—plus a new painting for the actor. In 2019, Boone plead guilty to tax fraud in an unrelated case and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
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