Art Forger Sells Over $1 Million in Paintings, Pleads Guilty

The man produced work claiming to be by Richard Hambleton and Barkley Hendricks

A California forgery case took several odd turns.
Julie Molliver/Unsplash

When it comes to art forgery, there are plenty of reasons why high-profile examples tend to focus on works that are ostensibly decades, if not centuries, old. If you create a painting and bill it as a previously unknown work by an Impressionist who’s been dead since the 19th century, that artist’s friends and family won’t be around to point out the presence of fraud. If you do the same thing for someone active in the last few decades, though, you run the risk of the real artist’s loved ones looking at your work and pointing out that it’s not the genuine article.

That’s precisely what happened to a California man named Jason Harrington. As Shanti Escalante-De Mattei reports, Harrington sold roughly $1 million worth of paintings between 2018 and 2020. Unfortunately, Harrington did not bill them as his own work. Instead, he passed them off as the work of Barkley Hendricks and Richard Hambleton, each of whom died in 2017.

As Escalante-De Mattei reports, Harrington tried to sell a painting purported to be by Hendricks to a gallery in New York in 2019. That gallery then contacted the Jack Shainman Gallery, who worked with Hendricks for over a decade before his death. They cast doubt on the painting’s veracity, and once Hendricks’s widow viewed the forgery in person, it was clear that it wasn’t his work.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California reveals that Harrington has pleaded guilty, admitted to selling forgeries to at least 15 people and galleries and will pay back “at least $1,124,001.22 in restitution.” His sentencing is scheduled for October.

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