A Spanish collector is on trial for forging 15 works by artists including Edvard Munch, Saul Steinberg, and Roy Lichtenstein which appeared in auction houses across Europe.
Per a report in El País, Madrid’s prosecutor’s office is seeking six and a half years of prison time for the accused, Guillermo Chamorro, 67, on charges of fraud and intellectual property theft.
The case broke open in 2019 after an Austrian collector, Tomas Weber reported that the lithograph by the Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida he bought from Munich’s Hampel Fine Art Auctions for 3,900 euros was a forgery offered for sale by Chamorro.
Weber’s discovery that his lithograph was false, as well as his identification of two additional fake Chillida works at Barcelona’s Setdart auction house, led to a series of raids by the Spanish National Police in March 2019. The police seized seven works attributed to Chillida, two to Lichtenstein, and one to Munch from Setdart. The auction house’s employees later admitted that there were five more unregistered pieces owned by Chamorro stored in a warehouse.
Spanish national police currently have 10 of the 15 works Chamorro is accused of forging; four pieces attributed to José Guerrero and one to Steinberg were sold by Setdart in December 2018.
During the hearing, Chamorro, who dabbles in collage, said he was a well-known art collector who began acquiring when he was 14. A representative for Hampel reportedly contacted him in 2017 over the possibility of buying some of his collection. After a few meetings he sent the house 29 artworks attributed to Munch, including several versions of the Scream, collectively valued between 250,000 and 300,000 euros. The works were later seized by police following suspicions from the artist’s estate.
During the trial, several experts provided details strongly signaling forgeries, including calligraphy on the purported Munch works not matching those on his other artworks. Francisco Baena, director of the José Guerrero Center in Granada testified that the paper and materials were not the same as those used by Guerrero.
Chamorro maintains that Guerrero personally gifted him the artworks in police custody: “The works were legitimate because he gave them to me himself, since I have participated with him in different projects,” Chamorro said.