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Episode 08 April 2021



This feature-length documentary for Arena by acclaimed director Vanessa Engle tells the remarkable story of a charlatan art dealer who swindled over $50 million from the art establishment before going on the run. Michel Cohen, a popular and charming New York art dealer was originally from France. A high school drop-out from a poor background, Cohen was a self-invented man who went on to become a rich and successful art dealer, with homes in Malibu and New York. Throughout the 1990s, he sold paintings by artists such as Picasso, Monet and Chagall to America’s wealthiest elite. Cohen was living the high life until he began trading recklessly in the stock market and ran up considerable debts. In an attempt to recoup his losses, he swindled private collectors, auction houses and other art dealers out of more than $50 million. When his swindles were discovered, he fled the USA with his wife and two small children and went on the run. In 2003, he was found by Interpol in Brazil and was imprisoned in Rio de Janeiro, but seven months later, whilst awaiting extradition to the USA, he escaped from prison and vanished off the face of the earth. Sixteen years later, filmmaker Vanessa Engle has managed to track him down and persuade him to tell his extraordinary story - a highly entertaining crime caper that is also a rich exploration of greed, motive and morality.

Source: BBC 4

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