• Alfredo Martinez convinced an art collector to purchase two drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat (which belonged to Tom Warren) in the late winter of 2001 for a bargain price. The work in question appeared that December in an exhibition Martinez co-curated with me entitled, Welcome to the Playground of the Fearless. Martinez took charge of returning the pieces to Warren, but before doing so, made his own versions. After returning the drawings, he mentioned that there was interest in the work from collectors who saw the show. He said he wanted to make copies of the certificates of authenticity before shopping the work around. Warren handed over the certificates, which Martinez went on to forge as well, he then returned falsified certificates and sold fake paintings – with real certificates – to the collector. The collector was tipped off that the paintings were fake by a Chelsea dealer and subsequently notified the F.B.I.. Claiming to be collectors the F.B.I. led Martinez to make more Basquiat drawings and certificates in an elaborate sting operation. His later forgeries were apparently sloppy compared to the first ones, as a result of his carelessness & and a possible desire to get caught (not to mention the encouragement from the F.B.I. for him to make more), he was apprehended by the F.B.I. on June 19, 2002. Forgery is difficult to prove however, so during the sting, the undercover F.B.I. agent posing as a collector named Bob Clay, asked Alfredo to Fed Ex and email a photo of the works in question across state lines. Federal prosecutors found him guilty on four counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud which lead to a mandatory sentencing of at least three years in jail. He currently resides at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, three blocks away from where Martinez grew up.

    Alfredo Martinez’ art career began in 1993 at Pat Hearn Gallery, the show was a happening called Skater Angels produced by David Greenberg and Diego Cortez. Afterwards he went on to participate in the seminal Bong Show at Alleged Gallery where artists such as Tom Sachs and Dirk Westphal made elaborate bongs as sculpture. His heights of legitimacy came first when he exhibited in group shows at the P.S. 1 Museum, a MoMa Affiliate (Agent Artist, Generation Z), that same year he had his first career solo show at the Donahue Sosinski gallery in SoHo (this exhibition marks his second solo exhibit with the gallery). In the summer of 2000 Roberta Smith reviewed an exhibition he curated Na’er Do Wells for The New York Times. That same year, a dot-com millionaire by the name of Joshua Harris (in collaboration with Leo Koenig) financed an indoor automatic weapon firing range designed by Martinez for a millennial project entitled Quiet. Martinez is a weapons expert, most recently he spent several years working with Rick Washburn at Weapons Specialists Limited. These were noteworthy achievements for someone who never graduated high school. In a field where academic legitimacy is highly revered, Martinez managed to do remarkably well with only an eleventh grade education. In this regard, he is a true folk artist, an elitist term synonymous with “outsider”, a derelict.

    During his time in federal prison, he continues to make art. This is significant because despite all of his escapades, his primary interest is still in making a career for himself as an artist. Were his actions just a desperate attempt to earn a quick buck? A decisive critique on the sometimes absurd values we place on art objects? Or is he in jail on purpose?

    Works to be exhibited:
    I. Drawings from prison*: Self-portraits, portraits of inmates, guns, tanks, political figures, fictional apocalyptic characters & collages primarily made with prison issued coffee & fruit punch.
    II. Sculpture: Collaborations with John Eberenz made just prior to his arrest.
    III. Alfredo a film by Tom Jarmusch documenting Martinez during his 1999-2000 project at Quiet.
    IV. Sound*: 13 audio cassettes featuring every conversation Martinez had with an undercover F.B.I. agent aka Bob Clay, posing as a collector who wanted to purchase Basquiat’s from Martinez.
    V. Detritus from the trial*: Court documents, correspondence, images of the forgeries etc. etc.
    {*Indicates items that were sent to the curator from Martinez in jail by mail.}