NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities are accusing a fugitive of selling forged paintings by Raymond Pettibon, a successful contemporary artist who got his break decades ago by doing album covers for punk rock bands like Black Flag and Sonic Youth.
Aspiring artist Christian Rosa, who fled the United States last year, is still at large, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors' office in Manhattan said Thursday. Rosa's attorney, Robert Gottlieb, declined comment.
Rosa, also known as Christian Rosa Weinberger, was a one-time friend of Pettibon who is a citizen of Brazil and Austria. He had been living in Los Angeles at the time of the alleged fraud, which centered on a well-known series of paintings by Pettibon depicting huge ocean waves dwarfing surfers, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in announcing an indictment against him on Wednesday.
The 43-year-old Rosa “swindled buyers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and risked a New York artist’s legacy through his forgery scheme,” Williams said.
In 2018 and 2020, Rosa and others arranged the sale of four forged wave paintings to two unidentified buyers, the indictment said. Rosa also fabricated certificates of authenticity with Pettibon’s forged signature, it says.
Asked in a 2019 exchange of emails with a friend about why one of the sales was delayed, Rosa explained he wanted to find a buyer who would agree not to resell the works at auction, the court papers say.
“I am not trying to get busted so that’s why it’s taking longer,” he allegedly wrote.
Rosa panicked after artnet.com reported suspicions that one of the paintings that was resold last year was a fake, the papers say. He emailed the friend saying, “the secret is out” and even contacted Pettibon claiming the fake was an “overpainted print” made by someone else in Austria, the papers say.
According to artnet.com, Pettibon’s works are included in the collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London.
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