Sotheby’s sues veteran art dealer over alleged fake Diego Giacometti works

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They claimed to be peddling works from a famed Swiss sculptor — but their story had more holes than a slice of cheese, a lawsuit claims.

The Sotheby’s auction house is demanding a Florida art seller and his wife pay back $7 million after it sold their allegedly phony art, said to be by renowned sculptor and painter Diego Giacometti, whose fanciful depictions of animals have been exhibited at museums across France, says the suit.

Dealers Frederic Thut and wife Bettina Von Marnitz Thut committed a “brazen fraudulent scheme,” Sotheby’s claims in an Aug. 3 Manhattan Federal Court filing.

The Thuts, who own Fine Art Auctions Miami, consigned seven pieces purportedly by Giacometti to Sotheby’s between 2016 and 2017, after the couple claimed to have purchased a “large trove” of the artist’s work, according to Sotheby’s complaint.

Giacometti, Console à double plateaux.
Sotheby’s

The auctioneer sold the art for millions, but learned in 2018 that an independent expert working for a buyer had deemed the pieces bogus, court papers claim.

Sotheby’s hired a handwriting analyst, who “determined that the provenance documents were forgeries,” according to the suit.

Additional documents offered up to support the alleged fraud were also uncovered, it says.

Giacometti Patinated-Bronze Lanterne aux Feuilles et Oiseau.
Giacometti Patinated-Bronze Lanterne aux Feuilles et Oiseau.
Sotheby's

After learning of the alleged ruse, Sotheby’s scrapped the sales and reimbursed buyers, but the Thuts have not given back what they made, the auction house charges.

Sotheby’s, which declined comment, is pursuing nearly $7 million in damages, plus legal fees. The Thuts could not be reached for comment.

Giacometti, who died in 1985, was the younger brother of and collaborator with the famed artist Alberto Giacometti. Diego is said to have “often portrayed animals in bronze with the aesthetic of ancient sculptures or primitive drawings,” according to artnet.com.

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