It is, to many, a byword for culture and opulence: Gulbenkian.

Six decades after his death, Calouste Gulbenkian, a lion of the early oil age, lives on through the $3.6 billion private foundation and sumptuous fine arts museum that bear his name.

So it’s fitting that Angela Gulbenkian, married to Calouste’s great-grandnephew, enmeshed herself in Europe’s big-money world of art. One moment she was posing for photos with the artist Ai Weiwei. The next she was brokering million-dollar art deals.

Only now, some have begun to wonder: Is Angela Gulbenkian everything she seemed?

One art adviser has accused her of fraud. In a civil suit, he says his firm paid Gulbenkian almost $1.4 million for a Yayoi Kusama sculpture that never materialized. Documents in the suit, as well as interviews with people familiar with Gulbenkian, indicate that many came to believe that she was affiliated with the two prominent Portuguese institutions with the Calouste Gulbenkian name. That isn’t the case.

And then this: Gulbenkian, in a recent affidavit, said she has a minimal amount of money in the bank.

The story spans from London to Munich to Hong Kong to Lisbon, home to the Gulbenkian foundation and museum. While the tale is still unfolding, it has already exposed a sobering truth about the $64 billion global art market: many people have no idea who they’re working with, or at least the person’s connections.

Buyers and sellers are often linked via chains of go-betweens that stretch across the world. Many intermediaries can get their hands on information about art -- but not necessarily the works themselves -- and offer it to hundreds of people. So-called runners represent neither buyers nor sellers; they simply try to pull together whatever deals they can, in hopes of collecting fees. In the age of Instagram, anyone can embellish an online persona.

“People are buying expensive art and are not doing due diligence on people they are buying the art from,’’ said Christopher Marinello, chief executive officer of Art Recovery International, whose client filed the civil suit.

Angela Gulbenkian, 36, didn’t respond to questions submitted through her lawyer. She has filed an affidavit in the civil suit, and appeared in a court hearing on the case Thursday that, at her lawyer’s request, was ordered by the judge to be kept private.

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