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Report: Auctioneer accused of selling fakes

January 28, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Florida art dealer insists that hundreds of art works he plans to sell this weekend are the real thing, despite other dealers’ claims that several are fakes.

Some prominent art dealers charge that C.B. Charles plans to sell dozens of fakes that are attributed to such well-known artists as Piet Mondrian, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jasper Johns and others, The New York Times reported today.

``It looks like virtually nothing in the catalog is authentic,″ said Robert C. Graham Jr., president of James Graham & Sons, a Manhattan gallery.

Law enforcement officials told the Times they are investigating, but the auctioneer insists all 294 works he plans to offer Sunday are authentic.

``We are looking into allegations to determine if there are any that are criminal in nature,″ said Scott Dressler, a Florida assistant state attorney who is head of Broward County’s Economic Crimes Division.

The FBI and Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are also investigating, Dressler said.

Charles said all the works are authentic and the sale will go on. The 70-year-old auctioneer, who has a gallery in Pompano Beach, Fla., says the dealers were simply upset because his offerings are estimated to sell at much lower prices than paintings in their inventories.

``It’s like putting my hand in their pocket,″ Charles said.

Charles is known for having handled auctions of furniture, clothing, jewelry and other items belonging to late celebrities such as Mary Pickford, Orson Welles, Mae West and Audrey Meadows.

Some of the advertised art works for the auction include a painting called ``Poppy,″ attributed to O’Keeffe; ``Colored Composition,″ attributed to Mondrian; and ``The Bird,″ a wooden Brancusi sculpture.

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