The Manhattan District Attorney's office has released a 100-count indictment of the art dealer Larry Salander. Salander was arrested at his home in Millbrook, New York, Thursday morning.
He is now out on bond.
Last year I wrote about the Salander case, what has been called an $88-million art-world ponzi scheme, in a feature for New York magazine.
Salander is not an ordinary con but a messianic figure who thought he was doing the right thing for the world of art by creating a market for Old Masters. Such distinctions may mean little in a court of law. Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau has been building his case for over a year through the New York City Police Department Major Case Squad. This is a bad time to go to trial for operating a ponzi scheme, of course, and Salander, a latter-day Medici, never lived modestly. These trappings will now be held against him; the DA even makes note of them in his press report.
What often gets missed in the cold reporting of this case is that New York lost an excellent gallery when Salander-O’Reilly was closed by court order in late 2007. I covered exhibitions at Salander-O'Reilly Galleries since 2002. The New Criterion’s coverage goes back to the first issues of the magazine in the early 1980s. Salander’s art must be considered separately from his business dealings. Today there is still no replacement for Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, and many of Salander’s former artists remain without representation.
Art galleries are a reflection of their directors, and Salander-O'Reilly reflected the ideals of its owner. One only needs to look at the hundreds of exhibitions Salander produced, many of them accompanied by scholarly catalogues--many, I noted as a critic, without art even for sale. These were museum quality shows, born from Salander's love of art.
It was Salander's passion for art that eventually led to his undoing. To put it mildly, Mr. Salander appreciated the life of art more than the business of art. Now the fate of this complicated, larger-than-life figure is in the hands of the courts.