Christian Rosa has been charged in a federal indictment with Mr Pettibone allegedly planning to defraud art buyers through the sale of four pieces.
one in message posted on twitter Two years ago, artist Raymond Pettibone expressed his gratitude to two friends who had visited him.
“Thanks Christian Rosa and Henry Taylor for coming,” he wrote. “Great artists and kind, genuine people. You made my day.”
But at the time, according to federal prosecutors, Mr. Rosa was actually involved in something that was the opposite of what was real: he was planning to sell counterfeiting Mr. Pettibone’s work.
In an indictment announced on Wednesday, Mr. Rosa was charged with wire fraud in the sale of four paintings that were allegedly the work of Mr. Pettibone and which were backed by a certificate of authenticity, on which Mr. Rosa was charged Mr. Accused of forging Pettibon’s signature.
Mr. Rosa, the indictment says, also known as Christian Rosa Weinberger, “defrauded buyers of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and through his counterfeiting scheme, jeopardized the legacy of a New York artist,” Damian Williams, US attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
Prosecutors said Mr Rosa, 43, was living in California but fled the United States in February and remains at large. If convicted of the most serious charge against him, he could face up to 20 years in prison. It was not clear whether he had a lawyer.
Mr Pettibone could not be reached for comment. Representatives for David Zwirner, the gallery that represents him, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday night, nor did the head of operations at his studio.
The indictment presents the following description of the events that led to the charges:
Beginning in 2017 and continuing last year, Mr. Rosa worked with others to sell Four Pieces, which they incorrectly refer to as Mr. Pettibone’s “Wave Series”.
In 2018, Mr. Rosa arranged the sale of two counterfeiters to a second unidentified buyer to help an unknown buyer. (As a thank you for the help of the first buyer, Mr. Rosa gave the man another “Wave Series” painting.)
Sometime in 2019, Mr Rosa exchanged emails with a friend trying to find buyers “for some unnamed pictures”. In an email, Mr. Rosa wrote that “they are asking about the certificates, how are we getting them.”
At one point, Mr. Rosa’s friend asked why the sale was taking so long. Mr. Rosa replied that he wanted to find a buyer who could not resell the works at auction.
“I’m not trying to bust, so it’s taking longer,” he wrote.
Prosecutors said Mr. Rosa used the proceeds from the sale of two paintings to pay for a down payment and mortgage on a home in California.
In 2020, the unidentified first buyer – after trying to help Mr Rosa sell other works by Mr Pettibone – bought two other counterfeiters at issue in the indictment.
The disclosure of the plan began when the website Artnet published an article Regarding allegations that Mr. Rosa forged one of the paintings sold to the first buyer, which was put up for sale at a New York auction house by the latter buyer.
The Artnet article states that dealers who saw images of one of the paintings being offered for sale “when they noticed that Mr. Pettibone’s “typical cobalt blues” had a strange yellow-green mix. So they got suspicious.” The signature scroll looked a little too polished”.
The day after the article was published, the indictment says, Mr. Rosa emailed his friend that “the secret is out.” Less than a month later, Mr. Rosa left the United States. A few months after that, he sold the California home and tried to move the proceeds from the sale overseas.
Mr. Pettibone, 64, first attracted widespread attention with his comic-style cover art on the albums of punk rock bands such as Black Flag, The Minutemen and Sonic Youth in the 1980s and ’90s.
His early pieces often mixed images of baseball greats, Hollywood stars and superheroes with bikers, gangsters and infamous American figures such as Charles Manson and Jay Edgar Hoover.
As his career progressed, he focused more on the bigger works, which often featured huge waves hitting surfers who looked younger. Some of his later paintings have been sold in $1 million or more. He was the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan in 2017.
Mr. Rosa himself was once a rising star in the art world. According to the Artnet article, the market decline for his work peaked in 2014, when one of his paintings was sold at Christie’s in New York for $209,000. A year later, the Artnet article says, a similar work by Mr. Rosa was sold at Sotheby’s for $30,000.