“Bankrupt Bullion Billionaire” is the kind of moniker the British tabloids love, almost as much as they love titles such as the Prince of Wales. Events unfolding in the art world this week are providing a rare opportunity to use both in the same sentence. Some $129 million worth of paintings on loan to the Prince’s Foundation from a ruined gold trader may well be forgeries and have been removed from public view.
The Dickensianly named James Stunt, a disgraced bullion trader, lent 17 paintings to the foundation in a 10-year lease agreement, according to The Mail on Sunday. The works reportedly include a Monet (Lily Pads 1882, valued at $64 million), a Picasso (Liberated Bathers, $54 million), and a Dalí (Dying Christ, $15 million) from Stunt’s collection. The paintings were hung at Dumfries House, the Palladian manor in Ayrshire, Scotland, that is home to the foundation. Some of the newly hung paintings soon caught the eye of the American art forger Tony Tetro, who recognized them as his own handiwork. “I don’t want any part of this. It has got to be stopped now,” Tetro told The Mail on Sunday, explaining that he sold some of the newly painted works to Stunt himself. Stunt immediately denied the charge. “None of my stuff is fake,” he told the paper.