Brazen forgery was art world's "most brilliant" con


To make sure he couldn't be caught, Ely Sakhai bought the original first—a Rembrandt of enormous value. This "incredibly brazen" con almost worked, writes Anthony M. Amore.

The authenticity of his Rembrandt, The Apostle James, was not questioned. Nor was the fact that it was purchased by Ely Sakhai from a reputable source. So when he would offer what he purported to be the painting for sale, it didn't raise questions about authenticity, if only because those interested in the painting perhaps failed to imagine the nefarious scheme of the seller. Thanks in large measure to his travels in the Far East with his wife, Sakhai made it his mission to establish a steady clientele in Tokyo and Taiwan too. and in June 1997, he sold his Rembrandt to the Japanese businessman and art collector Yoichi Takeuchi.

A key thing is that the forgeries–and those sold to Sakhai's later victims–were immediately debunked when inspected by experts. It's easy to get fooled and get wise again. For forgers, the message is still the medium, but only the forger knows which medium.