Art dealer testifies about fake Picasso drawings


Art dealer testifies about fake Picasso drawings

By BOB PURVIS, Journal Sentinel

Thursday, June 17, 2004

If rock-bottom prices on works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall weren’t enough to pique the suspicions of local art dealer William DeLind, the threat of an international police investigation was.

DeLind testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing for James Kennedy, a Northbrook, Ill., man accused of peddling fake artworks by master artists Picasso and Chagall that he presented as originals.

While the drawings “seemed too cheap” to DeLind, he said he initially trusted Kennedy’s account that they were legitimate.

His call to the FBI, which led to Kennedy’s arrest by Milwaukee police outside De-Lind’s gallery in May, was prompted by word that Paloma Picasso, the artist’s daughter, contacted the international police agency Interpol after learning of the fakes, DeLind said. Kennedy left two purported Picasso drawings with DeLind to sell on consignment in April. DeLind later gave them to another dealer, who DeLind says sent photographs to the artist’s daughter to verify their origin.

She in turn called Interpol, DeLind said.

When asked by defense attorney Kevin Noonan if he thought he was a target of the Interpol investigation when he called the FBI, DeLind said, “I was not going to take any chances.”

Prosecutors displayed roughly 15 of the signed artworks Kennedy left with DeLind or that were found in his SUV the day of his arrest, along with a number of letters purported to be from Picasso’s daughter.

In one letter addressed to Kennedy, she promised to buy him lunch the next time he was in Paris.

Kennedy’s attorney successfully moved to have his client’s bond reduced, arguing that he has no prior criminal record or reason to flee. Court Commissioner Dennis Cimpl agreed, returning the $5,000 Kennedy previously posted.

The hearing is scheduled to resume July 1.

Kennedy, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with one count of attempted theft by fraud and 13 counts of forgery-possession of forged artwork. If convicted he could spend up to 14 years in prison and have to pay more than $140,000 in fines.

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