Federal charges have been brought against artist Christian Rosa Weinberger for selling forged Raymond Pettibon paintings. According to the law enforcement agencies involved, from 2017 through 2020, Weinberger and several co-conspirators sold several fake paintings from Pettibon’s Wave series to unsuspecting individuals whose names have not been released. Weinberger then used the proceeds from some of the sales to buy a home in California.
The whole scam began to unravel back in January when Nate Freeman published an article in Wet Paint discussing a supposed Pettibon work that was offered in 2020 for about $1 million. Dealers who saw the work were suspicious of its authenticity, and soon determined that it was most likely an unfinished work taken from Pettibon’s studio by his friend Christian Rosa Weinberger.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, on the day after the Wet Paint article was published, Weinberger emailed one of his co-conspirators that the “secret is out.” Over the next few months, Weinberger had left the United States, then “sold the California residence and attempted to transfer the funds abroad.” He is still on the run.
You might be wondering why Weinberger would do this to an artist friend? Well, his career is a beautiful illustration of what goes on in the upper end of the contemporary market. More than a decade ago, he was basically unknown. With the rush of dealers and collectors looking to find the next hot artist, he soon became one of the art world’s darlings. His prices went from basically nothing to over $200,000. In 2014, Christie’s sold Untitled for $209,000. Just a year later, his works were selling for far less. In fact, Untitled was resold at Sotheby’s in 2017 for only $30,000. Those collectors and dealers who got in very early and sold quickly made a boatload of money. Everyone else was left holding the bag! While we could say that Weinberger and his art were victims, it still does not excuse his actions. This pump and dump scheme has been happening in the art world for far too long, and it is sad to keep watching it happen.