After a visit from agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a gallery in Pompano Beach, Fla., yesterday canceled a sale of 294 works of art that experts had said were falsely attributed to Georgia O'Keeffe, Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler and others.
"As soon as I found out that there are some obvious forgeries in this collection," said the gallery owner, C. B. Charles, "I canceled immediately. The sale is history."
The F.B.I. declined to comment, but people familiar with its inquiry said agents would seek a warrant to confiscate the collection.
On Monday, Mr. Charles had dismissed all charges that the paintings -- owned by an unidentified man -- were bogus and declared that the sale, scheduled for Sunday at his gallery, would go on. In an article in The New York Times yesterday, Mr. Charles was quoted as saying, "I have 294 paintings here, and we're going to sell them." He said then that there had been legitimate questions about only one or two paintings. And he called the charges of fakery "very malicious statements, made without seeing the paintings."
Art dealers and other experts had based their opinions on photographs in the auction catalogue. Ms. Frankenthaler, Mr. Johns, Jim Dine and Jack Levine had disowned the works attributed to them, and several experts had pointed out discrepancies in artists' styles or signatures that raised serious questions about virtually every other painting set to go on Mr. Charles' auction block.
"The impressions we had from the catalogue are exactly right," said Richard York, a Manhattan dealer who accompanied the F.B.I. agents to Florida, at their request.
He and other members of the Art Dealers Association of America are helping the agency in its investigation. Where the paintings came from remained a mystery. "For the most part, they didn't look like they were made yesterday." Mr. York said. "Some of the mats are darkened and stained, and the frames appear to have some age."
On Monday, Mr. Charles confirmed that the owner was a descendant of Stephen Moore, a colonist who donated some land for the United States Military Academy during the Revolutionary War. Yesterday he declined to provide additional identification, except to say that the man lived in Florida.
Mr. York said the owner was present during his visit to the Charles Galleries but that he did not know his name.
Mr. Charles said that he would make refunds to more than 400 people who bought the auction catalogue, which cost $30 plus shipping. "I had no knowledge of this," he protested. "The fact of the matter is that I am not an art expert. This was my first venture into this kind of sale." Although Mr. Charles, 70, has been an auctioneer for 38 years, he had concentrated on estate sales, frequently those of celebrities, among them Judy Garland and Orson Welles.