Hall was tricked by a mother-and-son team of master manipulators, but justice was served last week – in Concord, of all places – when a jury ordered Nikolas Gascard and mom Lorettann Gascard to pay Hall about $500,000 for selling him forged paintings.
The verdict was handed down at the United States District Court on Pleasant Street, in a case, a national story, that focused on the work by the late figurative artist, Leon Golub.
“At the time, I did not see any reason to doubt what they were telling me,” said Hall, reached at his part-time residence in Vermont. “(Nikolas) was very convincing and I have to tell you that generally in life I find people tell the truth. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I should have been more circumspect, but this had never happened to me until this time.”
He’s 68 and came here from London 35 years ago. His English accent still has Big Ben written all over it. His ability to predict oil markets led to great wealth, and now he has that home in Vermont and a gallery five miles away in Reading, Vt., where he uses a converted farmhouse to display his multi-million dollar art collection.
“Nikolas had a plausible explanation as how these works had come into the ownership of his mother and late father,” Hall told me. “According to Nikolas’s tale, they had become close friends with Leon and (wife) Nancy Spero and had received gifts. They continued to add to their collections, some gifts, some purchases.”
Nikolas and Lorettann, I figured, must have been brilliant con artists. Hall is no dummy, yet he never asked for documentation or receipts. When I expressed surprise, Hall made sure to mention that other experts in the field, both artists and leaders in the auction-house arena, had fallen for this lie as well.
“Prior to me buying the works, he managed to persuade other knowledgeable collectors and three auction houses to take the works on consignment from him,” Hall said. “In hindsight, I was obviously duped and did not do enough due diligence, but so were others. If I was stupid, others were too.”