The Berlin art dealer Michael Schultz, who was arrested in 2019 on suspicion he cheated customers out of millions of euros, has died at the age of 70, according to German media reports.
Schultz died on 28 December after a brief, severe illness, according to Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper. His gallery was declared insolvent in 2019. Before his financial decline and the police investigation, he was a prominent contemporary art dealer who sold works by Gerhard Richter, A. R. Penck and Georg Baselitz from his premises in Berlin’s bourgeois Charlottenburg district.
His clients included the rich and famous, such as the designer Wolfgang Joop and the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. Before setting up his own gallery in 1986, Schultz served as the editor of Kunst magazine and as the manager of Michael Wewerka Galerie, the Tagesspiegel said.
Police searched five addresses in Berlin and two in Brandenburg in 2019 in connection with their investigation, and announced that the dealer was arrested “on suspicion that he defrauded several people in connection with the sale of high-value artworks and caused damages worth several million euros.”
The prosecutor was preparing a criminal case against Schultz last year, according to René Allonge, a chief inspector for the Berlin police.
“Investigations of the suspect proved very complex,” Allonge says. “The result was a number of processes relating to fraud, embezzlement, document forgery, and delay in filing for insolvency. We estimate the damages in the millions. Now the suspect has died, so the investigations end and no criminal legal appraisal can take place.”
In a 2020 interview with Focus magazine, the property developer and collector Dirk Gädeke said Schultz, whom he once considered a friend, had sold him forgeries of a Richter abstract work and a Red Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol as originals, as well as two forged Sigmar Polke works. He said the dealer owed him about €3.4m in loans and other damages on top of more than €8m in damages for forgeries.