Estimating that he made 1,300 fake sculptures, Robert Driessen tells of surreptitious meetings in lay-bys where envelopes stuffed with cash would be handed over in return for the forgeries
There was a brilliant story last week in Der Spiegel (whose London office Spear's used to occupy) about a prolific forger of Swiss sculptor Giacometti.
Estimating that he made 1,300 fake sculptures, Robert Driessen tells of surreptitious meetings in lay-bys where envelopes stuffed with cash would be handed over in return for the forgeries:
'Guido S. was an insatiable buyer, and Driessen provided the antique dealer with as many forgeries as he wanted. Guido S. always came in person to pick up the bronzes, and he told Driessen that he planned to open a gallery near Lagos in Portugal's Algarve region, stocked with 1,500 Giacometti sculptures.
'The two men would meet on Sundays at a rest area on the A3 autobahn, which passes from the Netherlands to the Rhine-Main region in Germany. Driessen moved the fake Giacomettis from his BMW to Guido S.'s Daimler station wagon. He received an envelope filled with cash, or the purchase price was simpler transferred to his bank account. The Giacometti business went on for 10 years.'
There are two particularly interesting (and connected) aspects of this story. The first is that, since someone paid $104 million for a Giacometti, owning a forged one has the potential – if the second buyer is not too cautious – to net a great sum on resale.
The second is that some people are stupid enough to believe that they are getting real Giacomettis for super-low prices: “A billionaire in Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt, bought 49 fake Giacomettis for €3.5 million.' Even small sculptures go for a couple of million dollars.
The forger has the final, cynical word, even if he seems to be confusing cause and effect:
'Driessen watched a television report on the destruction of his works on YouTube, but he wasn't overly moved by it. He doesn't feel guilty, and there are limits to his pity for the victims. “Anyone who believes he can buy a real Giacometti for €20,000 deserves to be duped. The art world is rotten.”'