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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Art Dealer Perturbed at Pop Artist Britto

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - An art dealer claims in court that several people and galleries sold him dozens of forgeries attributed to Brazilian-American Pop artist Romero Britto.

Ryan Mack dba Griffin Galleries claims that Britto himself was aware of the existence of the forgeries: "Defendant Romero Britto and his corporation Britto Central, Inc. were aware of the scheme and despite this knowledge allowed art dealers and consumers to buy and sell forged Romero Britto works of art and continues to allow forged pieces of Romero Britto to remain in the market place," according to the complaint.

Mack and his gallery sued Leslie Roberts, Silvia Castro aka Linda Safira, Coral Gables Galleries, Britto in the Grove, Max in the Grove LLC, Britto Central, Magical Thinking Art, and Romero Britto, in Federal Court.

Britto, 49, is a Brazilian-American Pop artist and designer, whose main gallery is in South Beach, Miami.

In his federal RICO complaint, Mack accuses Roberts, Castro and three galleries of a series of misrepresentations: "Specifically, the defendants submitted false e-mails, certificates of authenticity and engaged in impersonating individuals to conceal the scheme with the intent to defraud and that the plaintiff relied on these documents and representation when they issued payment to the defendants.

"As a result of defendants Les Roberts; Silvia Castro; Coral Gables Galleries, Inc.; Britto in the Grove and Max in the Grove, LLC ['s] violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) plaintiffs have paid out to this enterprise in excess of $50,000 for this scheme," the complaint states.

Mack says in the complaint: "Plaintiff currently has in his possession (22) twenty-two pieces of art that Britto Central has confirmed is fraudulent and (43) forty-three pieces of art that it sold to its customers as original and authentic pieces of art from Romero Britto.

"Plaintiff also purchases and sells artwork by Peter Max. On or about November 2011 plaintiff learned that Max in the Grove was selling online a clearly fraudulent painting by Peter Max. The continued flooding of fraudulent pieces of art into the marketplace serves as a detriment to plaintiff as it drives down the value of those pieces of art within the market."

Max, the signature artist of 1960s psychedelic art, is not a party to the complaint.

Mack claims that after he began buying Brittos, he came to discover that Romero Britto and Britto Central Inc. had sued Roberts and Castro, in Miami Federal Court.

(Britto and Britto Central sued Les Roberts, Les Roberts Jr., Silvia Castro and Coral Gables Galleries Inc. on Feb. 24, 2010, alleging copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, deceptive trade and usurpation of publicity rights, in Miami Federal Court.)

In his new complaint, Mack states: "Defendant Britto Central and Romero Britto admit that they had a relationship beyond asserting that it allowed defendants to utilize studio procedures, proprietary and confidential information in the scheme to defraud unexpecting consumers. Defendant Britto Central and Romero Britto knew or should have known of the fraudulent scheme given the close proximity of the other defendants to his home studio.

"Defendant Britto Central and Romero Britto requested in the lawsuit against Les Roberts, Silvia Castro, Coral Gables Galleries, Inc. to have all the fraudulent art work impounded and destroyed. However, despite knowing and in fact referring to plaintiff buying and selling the forged art pieces within in this complaint, defendant Britto Central and Romero Britto failed to obtain the fraudulent art pieces and allowed them to remain with the known dealers such as plaintiff as well as consumers that defendant Britto Central and Romero Britto knew had and continue to maintain these fraudulent pieces of art with their homes or offices."

Mack seeks damages for negligence, unjust enrichment, intentional misrepresentation, conspiracy and RICO violations.

He is represented by Michael Lowden.

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