Fiendish (and Pretty Brilliant) Russian Art Forgers Arrested in Germany

Start with one nation’s massive artistic legacy, and combine it with an unstable certification process. Then add voracious auction prices, a hefty serving of “minor works” from the secondary market, and a pinch of eager collectors who should know better. Tada! You’ve got everything you need for a massive art forging ring.

Christie's employee with Wassily Kandinsky's Studie zu Improvisation 3, London, 7/6/13

On Wednesday and Thursday, German police raided homes and businesses across the country, seizing more than 1,000 objects from the latest stars of this fun-until-you-get-caught profession. Two members of an alleged six-member gang, who specialized in paintings by Malevich, Goncharova, and Kandinsky, were arrested. Though the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), the German federal police force, described the raids as an “important blow,” the breadth of the raid is a reminder of the vulnerability of the market for interwar painting.

“It’s well known that avant-garde works are particularly subject to forgery purely on stylistic grounds,” William MacDougall, director of MacDougall’s auction house, told the Guardian. “It’s not that difficult to paint a convincing black square. It’s much more difficult to forge a Rembrandt, for instance.”