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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

THE SUBWAY PORTFOLIO CASE: Who Created The “Fugazi” Jean-Michel Basquiat Artworks David Damante Used In His Art Scam?


On one occasion, Basquiat and Doyle rode the subway together, and the artist departed the train first leaving behind a large art case full of drawings. 

Doyle made several attempts to return this artwork, but never managed to bring the artist together with it again. 

Basquiat seemed almost apathetic toward Doyle's efforts to return the lost drawings and simply shrugged when Doyle brought the subject up. 

The portfolio was left in various houses owned by Doyle over the years and was long forgotten until recently re-discovered during house cleaning at Doyle's daughter's house in Vermont. 

Basquiat Subway Case Art Collection
Kevin Doyle

BACKSTORY On June 5, 2018, as managing member for New Mexico-based Sinuessa Fine Art, LLC, David Damante executed a financial document titled “Agreement”, conveying a work of art referenced to as “Helicopter” to a San Francisco art dealer, Lumsden (Lu) Quan.

Damante and Quan met where you'd expect two experienced con men to hook up —in stir, the tank, the Gray Bar Hotel, the slammer.

Take your pick, they all mean the same thing: prison.

In this case, FCI Terminal Island, located between San Pedro and Long Beach, California.

Quan was serving a year and two days’ incarceration, followed by three years supervised release, for his role in the illegal sale of black rhinoceros horns. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator, Quan was released from custody on July 26, 2017.

Damante was sprung roughly five months earlier, on February 28, 2017, after serving a ten month stretch at Terminal Island for violating the terms of his release on a federal wire fraud conviction.


Damante's extensive criminal history, precisely documented on this blog, beginning with this March 2014 story, reads like a story pitch for CNBC's true crime series, American Greed.

However, my investigation revealed Lumsden Quan's extensive history of art scams, including one detailed in an October 2010 civil complaint filed against Quan by an associate allegedly cheated out of thousands of dollars in a artwork investment swindle.

On or about March 23, 2010, Quan contacted Jin Koh, the President of Nuvoiz, Inc., and “solicited $15,000 in funds from Mr. Koh specifically for the purchase of an untitled painting by Winslow Homer, dated Early 20th Century, and described as “Seascape and Storm”. 

According to the October 14, 2010 complaint, Quan told Koh that the Homer painting, once authenticated, was worth in excess of $15,000. 

On March 25, 2010, Koh transferred $15,000 in cash to Quan. Quan purchased the Homer painting on or about March 25, 2010, which Koh asserted was still in Quan’s possession at the time of his complaint was filed. 

According to his complaint, Koh repeatedly contacted Quan between May 2010 and August 2010, inquiring as to “the status of the funds that Nuvoiz, Inc. tendered to Quan on March 25, 2010. 

In July 2010, after Koh contacted Quan and inquired as to the status of the Homer painting, he learned that Quan had “placed the Homer painting for public viewing in Quan’s gallery, the Artsonian, located at 1835 Divisadero Street, in San Francisco. 

Koh alleged that Quan “has a history, pattern, and practice of obtaining capital from third parties and thereafter refusing to repay the third parties and abide by the terms of which the funds were transferred.” 

Koh stated that Quan had “create new other business entities” and intended to sell the Homer painting to a third party. 

Koh’s complaint alleged Quan had the assistance of “agents and/or employees”, who were listed in the complaint as “DOES ONE through FIFTY”, and requested leave to amend his complaint to insert their true names.  

Koh believed the unnamed defendants were “in the business of purchasing and selling paintings” and were also “in the business of acquiring capital for the purchase and sale of paintings.”

After making its way through San Francisco County’s Superior Court of California, Koh and Quan settled the case in March 2011. Koh was awarded $50,000, which included damages, attorney fees, interest and punitive damages for fraud, breach of contract and partner accounting violations. 

However, Koh never received a nickel from Quan, who filed two bankruptcy petitions (Chapter 13 on May 20, 2011 and Chapter 7 on September 7, 2010) listing nearly $1.5 million in unsecured debt. 

Both bankruptcy cases were dismissed: Quan failed to provide the required financial information within 45 days of his filing. 

Shortly after he was released from prison in Calfornia, David Damante returned to Las Vegas, and began using the last name 'Diamante'.

If you believe the document shown at left, David Damante showed up at Art encounter, a Las Vegas art gallery, on March 3, 2017 to retrieve a painting described as “Helicopter by Jean Michele [sic] Basquiat”. 

Although Damante would claim in a September 27, 2017 affidavit that he'd inherited the painting from his late father, who'd purchased it sight unseen at a storage facility auction, that same painting was alleged by Quan's associate Taryn Burns in a June 14, 2018 provenance document (shown below) to have been purchased by Quan in 2012 from a Costa Mesa collectible shop.

However, within three months, Damante, aided by Las Vegas attorney Scott Cantor, had already fleeced his first victim, Rick Belcastro.

And then he hit the art galleries, beginning with Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art in Laguna Beach, California.


With exclusive documents provided by a confidential source, who initiated contact with a gallery after locating its sale listing on Artsy, here's the tick-tock of David 'Diamante' Damante's spring 2018 foray to Laguna Beach.

According to an email sent to my source by Bridgette Shaw, director of the Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art (LGOCA), Damante (using the last name, Diamante) showed up in early March 2018 with an unframed artwork, painted on a small sheet of plywood, he claimed was an authentic Basquiat:

Mr. Diamante came to LGOCA one afternoon upon being 'referred' from an Art dealer that previously resided in Las Vegas. 

LGOCA had no idea who Diamante was as he showed up with a painting in his hand unannounced and asked that we take a look to see what it was. 

This is a common occurrence, almost daily, in the art business. Mr. Diamante proceed to unbox the painting and stated that the painting was from his father’s trust. 

After we looked at the painting, he asked if we could take professional photographs of it for him which we agreed to do as the gallery was not busy on the Wednesday morning and we are courteous to most patrons. 

After Mr. Diamante left, he called the next day and asked if we wanted to sell his painting. 

We said that if there is sufficient and required documentation that we would be able to list the painting on a trial period of two weeks.

As shown in the undated screen grab at left, the LGOCA had listed artwork purported to be an original Basquiat work. As you can see in the image, the gallery claimed it was prepared provide provenance (a list of owners, beginning with the artist), signed documents from previous owners confirming authenticity and bills of sale.

But it appears that in Damante's case, the gallery made special arrangements, listing his purported Basquiat on Artsy on the strength of the craptastic documents listed in this March 17, 2018 email from a LGOCA art consultant—including an affidavit signed by Damante as Diamante claiming he'd inherited the painting from his late father when it was likely granted to him by Lumsden Quan!

Oh, and a Global Art storage agreement under his real name, Damante. 

(Did nobody ask to see a drivers license or passport? Ever hear of KYC?)

Shaw continues her tale:

The painting was listed on Artsy for approximately 10 days. 

Upon a client inquiring about a correct certificate for the painting, I called Mr. Diamante and asked him for the certificate. 

He said he would send it to me that afternoon. 

The certificate copy arrived and we also received paperwork from storage units in Nevada where the painting had supposedly been stored. 

The certificate was then reviewed and some noticeable issues on the copy started to make the gallery question the authenticity of the painting. 

As the red flags began appearing with Mr. Diamante, the gallery decided to distance itself from him. 

The gallery has never signed any paperwork with Mr. Diamante and no form of consignment was ever given as we were waiting to see the physical certificate, which never came. 

As per our findings we permanently barred Mr. Diamante from bringing any artwork to LGOCA again. 

Decided to distance, never signed any paperwork, and no form of consignment?

So why the ten-day listing on Artsy? 

You did that without an agreement?

Where would the funds be wired if the painting sold?

What about the emails from Damante to the LGOCA providing the provenance? 

Or a call explaining where the painting was located in the event of a sale? 

I mean, it was listed on Artsy for ten days.


Continuing on Friday, July 20, part three of my exclusive series.

Learn more about Lumsden Quan, three friends who sent letters of reference to the judge in his wildlife trafficking case, and an exclusive interview with one renowned Basquiat associate who's still kicking ass and taking names!

Crack Apple Night, anyone?

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