Wednesday 13 October 2021

New York Antiquities Dealer Admits Mass-Producing Fakes He Sold for Years

The value of a COA with no other paperwork

In the USA, nobody involved in archaeology and artefact collecting was much surprised by today's news: Antiquities Dealer Admits Mass-Producing Fakes He Sold for Years (New York Times 13th October 2021). What is surprising was how long it took US authorities to actually look into the many complaints that had been made down the years. 

Mehrdad Sadigh, the owner of a longtime Manhattan gallery admitted in court that while some customers thought they were buying ancient items, they were actually modern knockoffs, just made to look old. He admitted that over the years he'd "aged" thousands of antiquities in an assembly line-like operation, but he got "others to post glowing, but false, reviews of his gallery, inventing dozens of appreciative customers". 

 Sadigh pleaded guilty to seven felony charges, including forgery and theft. In a memorandum of understanding filed with the court, the district attorney’s office asked for Mr. Sadigh, who had no previous arrest record, to be sentenced to five years of probation and be banned from being involved in the sale of antiquities again. 

Sadigh had begun his business in 1978 as a small mail-order company, but moved to a gallery on to the upper floors of the 5th and 31st East buildings in 1982. There he sold artefacts that were said to be ancient Anatolian, Babylonian, Byzantine, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, and Sumerian. Many of them shared a significant style, and may perhaps one day become collectors' pieces in their own right. Some of the low-value artefacts in his catalogue however were genuine. During a sting operation, an undercover federal investigator had purchased a gold pendant and a marble portrait of an ancient Roman woman from Sadigh’s gallery. They and the representations made of them were then the basis for visits to the gallery by members of the District Attorney’s and Department of Homeland Security investigations. Officials said hundreds of fake relics were on display at various stages of preparation, and thousands more were found in the back room where various means were being used to make items look older than they were. These included the use of varnish, spray paint and belt sander.

What is annoying is now the uninformed people that would formerly have bought a Sadigh artefact and been quite happy with it as they know no better, will now increasingly be buying other artefacts from other sellers, which will include looted items that the same ignorance prevents them from asking the proper questions of the dealers offering them with the same warm assurances as Mr Sadigh was employing. 

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