Artist in Queens Allegedly Forged Hundreds of Modernist Paintings

Pei-Shen Qian, a Chinese artist whose acclaim in China faded once he immigrated to New York City, is at the center of a scandal that allegedly had him fabricate hundreds of paintings by prominent modernist painters, including Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell.

The 73-year-old Qian, who lived in Woodhaven, Queens, kept his windows covered at all times while federal investigators believed he created around $80 million worth of forgeries. Mr. Qian had come to New York in the 1980s, hoping to match some of the acclaim he had received in China, as well as enjoy some of the artistic freedoms available in the United States. However, he soon found the art scene difficult to navigate, unable to get around the language barrier.

That's when Qian met an art dealer while selling paintings on the streets of lower Manhattan in the early nineties. The art dealer recruited Qian to copy the works of prominent abstract expressionists, and then sold his work to established galleries. Wealthy art-buyers, including a Kuwaiti sheikha, have now brought lawsuits against the art dealers for millions of dollars.

“I didn’t know he had this kind of a good technique,” Zhang Hongtu, a friend of Qian, told the New York Times. “He had some talent, but I don’t believe he can paint in the same style as a Jackson Pollock; it’s not easy to copy this kind of style.”

Qian and his wife haven't been seen around his Woodhaven home for months. Neighbors speculate that he has returned to China.