Over 30 Years of Forgery Exposed: Man Charged With Forging Antiquities By The Thousands

In the backrooms of a Manhattan business known as the Sadigh Gallery Ancient Art, Inc., thousands of items were discovered that appeared to have been created on the spot and then artificially aged to make them look much older than they really were.

The Gallery was opened in 1978 by Mehrdad Sadigh and was the subject of a multi-year long investigation before the owner was charged with scheming to defraud, grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery and criminal simulation.

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Undercover federal agents had purchased a marble bust of an ancient Roman woman and a gold pendant showing the death mask of Tutankhamen. Both of these items sold for $8,000 total, $4,000 each. These sales prompted Homeland Security and district attorney’s office members to enter the Gallery in early August 2021. They were the ones to report finding hundreds of fakes on display, and thousands hiding in the backrooms.

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The chief of the district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, Matthew Bogdanos, reported that spray paints, varnish, mudlikes substances, a belt sander, and other materials and tools were found in what looked like a scheme to mass-produce fake Anatolian, Babylonian, Byzantine, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, and Sumerian antiquities.

Mr. Sadigh plead not guilty on August 6th, 2021 and is expected back in court in October, 2021.

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“For many years, this fake antiquities mill based in midtown Manhattan promised customers rare treasures from the ancient world and instead sold them pieces manufactured on-site in cookie-cutter fashion.”
Cyrus Vance Junior,
Manhattan District Attorney

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Mr. Sadigh’s website has since been taken down but his Instagram page is still up and has a description saying “Your source for the most comprehensive selection of authentic cultural artifacts, antiquities, ancient coins and jewelry. Founded in 1978.”

It was founded in 1978, but it had operated out of the office space located at 303 5th Avenue #1603 since 1982.

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To give some other examples of what he was selling and how much he was selling them for, over the past year, he had posted a mummified falcon from the alleged 4th century BCE for $9,000, a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus mask from the alleged 6-7th centuries BCE for $5,000, and an alleged Mongolian meteorite fragment for $1,500.

Additionally, a $50,000 sarcophagus, a $40,000 cylinder seal, and a $25,000 statue are now suspected to be fakes.

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Major red flags were raised in April 2019 when Björn Anderson and graduate student Erin Daly suspected an exhibit at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in Iowa contained mostly fake or questionable items. Out of the 125 items in the exhibit, 90 of them were suspicious.

Mr. Sadigh denies any knowledge of them. But what do you think? Is Sadigh guilty? Or is this all just one big misunderstanding?

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References:

[1] – Moynihan, Colin. “He Sold Antiquities for Decades, Many of Them Fake, Investigators Say” (25 Aug. 2021). https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/25/arts/design/fake-antiquities-investigation.html. Accessed 3 Sept. 2021.

[2] – Jones, Parker. “Decades-long scheme exposed: UI professor and grad student uncover forged antiquities” (2 Sept. 2021). https://dailyiowan.com/2021/09/02/decades-long-scheme-exposed-university-of-iowa-professor-and-grad-student-uncover-forged-antiquities/. Accessed 3 Sept. 2021.

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