In the scandal that rocked the rarefied art world of New York
Qian, who previously painted portraits of Chairman Mao for schools and workplaces in China, arrived in the United States in the 1980s and worked as a math teacher after his artistic career failed. It was “discovered” painting around the corner by Jose Carlos Bergantinos Diaz, Rosales’ boyfriend. Bergantinos Diaz and Rosales recruited Qian to create the works, which Diaz would “age” by using old canvases from flea markets and providing Qian with old paint.
It wasn’t until 2011 (and sales of over $ 80 million) that the deception was discovered, when an alleged Jackson Pollock, who had sold for $ 17 million, was declared false after Forensic tests revealed that the yellow paint in the work had not been commercially available until 1970, 14 years after Pollock’s death. Things quickly unfolded for the gallery, and the outraged De Soles – interviewed in the doco, and still outraged – took legal action.
Avrich interviews many people involved in the scandal, especially Freedman (Qian, wisely, collapsed in China, from where he cannot be extradited; that doesn’t stop Avrich from trying to find him, however) , and even Bergantinos Diaz himself who, until this film, was largely unknown, having returned to Spain where he remains a fugitive. He tells Avrich that it was Rosales who drove the plan, and that he was just a small player. Then at the end of the interview, he tries to sell Avrich “Bob Dylan’s harmonica”. You couldn’t be reconciled.