Whenever I’ve written about forgers getting caught, it’s nearly always been about ambitious people trying to pass something off as a long-lost masterwork. Typically it’s by one of the great Old Masters or Impressionist giants that might sell for millions when gone undetected. However, that doesn’t mean that the small-time forgeries can’t make the news or grab the attention of the authorities. A 67-year-old man in Spain found that out the hard way.
In 2019, an Austrian collector Tomas Weber bought a lithograph by the Spanish Basque artist Eduardo Chillida from the Munich-based auction house Hampel. While Chillida is primarily known as an abstract and surrealist sculptor, he has some works on paper available on the market. The most expensive Chillida print ever sold was a woodcut auctioned off at the Munich auction house Ketterer for €37K hammer (or $48.9K). On the other hand, Weber paid €3.9K for the work but soon suspected it was a forgery. Weber discovered that a Spanish man named Guillermo Chamorro had consigned the work. Originally, Weber just wanted a refund for the forgery, but after some digging, the Austrian collector found some other fake Chillida works at other auction houses. The Madrid-based Setdart auction house had several of them in their possession, all of which Chamorro had consigned. Weber passed this information off to Spanish police, leading to the discovery of at least 15 forgeries created by Chamorro.
Chamorro is now charged with intellectual property theft and fraud. Spanish authorities have since confiscated 10 of the 15 fake works. The other five, previously attributed to José Guerrero and Saul Steinberg, were sold in December 2018 and have not been recovered. Among the confiscated forgeries were several prints that were previously attributed to Edvard Munch as iterations of his famous Scream. José Manuel Lara, an expert from the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, helped in confirming the Munch prints as fakes by pointing out that they had been made using a modern inkjet printer. Spanish prosecutors are now arguing for a six-and-a-half-year sentence for Chamorro.