Accused Pettibon Forger Christian Rosa Said to Be Arrested in Portugal
December 06, 2021
Brazil-born painter Christian Rosa, once a darling of the international art scene, has been arrested in Portugal in connection with allegations that he peddled forged works falsely attributed to California artist Raymond Pettibon, according to Vanity Fair. Said to have been snared after his girlfriend posted to Instagram a photo of a water bottle bearing the label of a well-known Portuguese brand, Rosa is reportedly being extradited back to the United States. There he will face charges of wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and aggravated identity theft in relation to the sale of four forgeries credited to Pettibon, whom Rosa had befriended, presenting himself as a fan of the artist’s work.
According to Artnet News, a spokesperson from the US Department of Justice declined to comment on Rosa’s reported arrest and possible extradition but did acknowledge that “the indictment charging the defendant is pending, so if and when he is in US custody, [he] would be presented and arraigned in federal court here.” Rosa was charged in October with selling forgeries of the “Wave Series” paintings for which Pettibon, around 1980 the creator of punk band Black Flag’s iconic “bars” logo and long a revered underground art-world figure, had gained mainstream fame and institutional acceptance a few years into the new millennium. If convicted, Rosa could spend up to twenty years in prison.
The Brazilian artist’s alleged arrest is a sad coda to a pair of swift and stunning falls. Before becoming embroiled in his current legal woes, Rosa in the early half of the 2010s had achieved notice, praise, and elevated auction prices for his sparse, Surrealist-influenced canvases. Between 2014 and 2015, however, the price commanded by his work dropped sevenfold, and by 2018 he was selling fake “Wave” paintings. Within a month of their authenticity publicly being called into question in a January 2021 Artnet News article, Rosa fled the US for parts at that time unknown. Following the October announcement of the connected charges, FBI assistant director Michael J. Driscoll in a statement noted that “the FBI and our partners have international reach and steadfast determination. We encourage him to turn himself in, because we will eventually find him with that persistent long arm of the law.”