Driven to Abstraction | Chicago Reader
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Driven to Abstraction

In 2011, it came to light that New York City’s oldest art gallery, Knoedler & Company, had been selling forged artworks under the leadership of gallery president Ann Freedman. Filmmaker Daria Price covers the ins and outs of the $80 million fraud, which began when a Long Island art dealer, Glafira Rosales, approached Freedman and claimed she had unknown masterworks by Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Robert Motherwell, among others. In reality, the paintings were forgeries made by a talented Chinese artist, Pei-Shen Qian. It’s interesting stuff, but Price’s artless approach to the story feels more suited to a PowerPoint presentation than a film (for instance, when an interviewee mentions red flags with regards to the collection from which these artworks came, Price presents four actual red flags on-screen). I appreciated some of the hoity-toity art world insiders whom Price interviews; one raises interesting points about forgeries with arguments reminiscent of those pondered in Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy. The film briefly explores class and privilege as it considers how Freedman, who is wealthy, moved on from her part in the scandal by settling her lawsuits (there’s a lot of debate over who knew what, exactly) while the more middle-class Rosales—it would seem her longtime partner is the true mastermind behind all of it, but he fled to Spain—faced the greatest consequences.

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