A ring of forgers specialising in the production of works by French sculptor César Baldaccini called “César” was dismantled in Paris, French police announced on November 19th 2001.
Dozens of forgeries were made soon after César's death in 1998 and started to flood the art market.
Police said that some 200 fakes, mainly compressions and drawings, were seized following the arrest of three people involved in that fraud.
Many art dealers and auctioneers were interrogated as part of a two-year investigation as well as the artist's last mistress, a sexy blonde in her thirties who has been at odds with the latter's family over his succession. In addition, the investigating judge questioned Denyse Durand-Ruel, a well known art specialist and author of the catalogue raisonné of César's works, who had been in touch with the suspected forger identified as Eric Piedoie nicknamed “ Le Tiec”.
A 56 year-old Parisian journalist, accused of having produced faked authentication certificates for the faked works that were offered on the art market, was jailed alongside Guy Pieters, a well known Belgian contemporary art dealer and former friend of César who was said to have sold dozens of forged pieces.
The César scandal, which has rocked the French art market, has caused much concern among professionals who, as a result, now face suspicion when it comes to sell genuine works.
Investigators, who said that probably over 400 forgeries had been made, are now trying to determine whether the forgers had other accomplices. They also embarked on the difficult task of recovering pieces already sold to many collectors via galleries and auction sales."Le Tiec" had found a way to sell forged pieces in approaching collectors from the Jet-Set world frequenting trendy Parisian night-clubs, police added.
César became famous during the 1970s with his compressed cars and objects as well as with his quite humorous sculptures. His legendary thumb sculpture was one of his works most sought on the market.