Art world rocked by ‘genius’ £200m Old Masters forgery scandal

Adam Sherwin21/10/2016

David With The Head Of Goliath, attributed to Italian master Orazio Gentileschi. (Photo - Weiss Gallery)

They are undoubtedly the work of a genius, art experts admit. But police are now investigating a spate of brilliant Old Masters forgeries which have fooled the world’s leading auction houses and museums.

The authorities are seeking to crack the ring, thought to be the work of a highly sophisticated modern forgery workshop, based in Italy.

Around 25 “fake” Old Masters, bought and sold for £200m after bypassing expert scrutiny, are believed to be in circulation.

“Whoever has been making them is an artist of extraordinary skill” Forgery expert Dr Bendor Grosvenor

The scandal threatens to undermine faith in the authentication process of those institutions which presented them as genuine works.

A painting of Saint Jerome, sold in 2012 for $842,500, attributed to the 16th-century artist Parmigianino, is the latest work to be sent for technical tests by Sotheby’s in New York, amid concerns that it is a modern forgery.

The painting was displayed by the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2014.

Sotheby’s was previously forced to reimburse the buyer of an £8.4 million painting, An Unknown Man, supposedly by Dutch master Frans Hals, after forensics company Orion Analytical determined that it was a fake.

Traces of 20th century synthetic materials were discovered under the paint, leading Sotheby’s to conclude that the painting was “undoubtedly” forged.

An Unknown Man attributed to Frans Hals that sold for £8.4m ($10.8m) has been declared fake (picture - Sotheby's)
An Unknown Man by “Frans Hals” that sold for $10.8m) has been declared fake (picture – Sotheby’s)

The forger is suspected of responsibility for a painting thought to be by Italian master Orazio Gentileschi that was loaned by a private lender to the National Gallery.

Painted on the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, David with the Head of Goliath, displayed from last April, supposedly dates from 1692.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor, the BBC Fake or Fortune art expert, concluded: “For what it’s worth, I believe it is a forgery. But it took me a long time, and a flight to Berlin to see an undisputed original Gentileschi for comparison, to figure it out.”

No reason to doubt says National Gallery

The National Gallery said it performed “due diligence research” on the work, which arrived with no published provenance after being bought by a London dealer, and had “no obvious reasons to doubt” that it was authentic.

The scandal broke when Venus, a painting by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach and bought by the Prince of Liechtenstein for £6m was seized by authorities at an exhibition in the South of France, following a criminal investigation. It was sent to the Louvre for testing.

Italian dealer named as the link

The link between the paintings is that they have passed through the hands of a previously unknown Italian, French-based dealer, Giulano Ruffini, who appeared to have discovered a string of Old Masters. “I am a collector, not an expert,” claimed Ruffini, 71, who said it was other experts who deemed the paintings to be authentic.

Richard Feigen, a leading Old Master art dealer in New York, called the affair “one of the biggest scandals in my memory”, which should make institutions “very wary about things they are offered and the sources of those things.”

However Dr Grosvenor cannot disguise a sneaking admiration for the “Moriarty of the Old Master.” “Whoever has been making them is an artist of extraordinary skill,” he wrote.

“Equally skilful is the ability to age these modern creations in such a way as to make them look centuries old. Sadly, we don’t yet know who this genius is.”

The scandal was unearthed by an investigative art journalist, Vincent Noce.

Fake or fortune?

Orazio Gentileschi – David contemplating the Head of Goliath (1692)

The “rarest and most bizarre object” in the National Gallery’s Making Colour show, the painting on a panel of semi-precious blue lapis lazuli stone creates a spectacular sky behind David. The Gentileschi was “discovered” in 2012 and sold to a private collector, who loaned it to the National Gallery. It has been returned to its lender.

Frans Hals – An Unknown Man

Authenticated by a senior curator at the Louvre, the newly-discovered painting was sold to London dealer Mark Weiss, who also handled the Gentileschi, and sold in good faith through Sotheby’s in New York for $10m in 2011.

“An in-depth technical analysis established that the work was undoubtedly a forgery,” concluded Sotheby’s which rescinded the sale and reimbursed the buyer.

Lucas Cranach – Venus with a Veil (1535)

Sold in 2013 to the Prince of Liechtenstein for £6m, Venus had been authenticated as a Cranach by scholars. Seized by French police, a new analysis suggests artificially-aged paint on a panel crated 200 years too late for the German Renaissance painter. A link to the Hals prompted Sotheby’s to investigate its own sale.

@adamsherwin10

Source: Art world rocked by ‘genius’ £200m Old Masters forgery scandal – The i newspaper online iNews

October 21st, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, vervalsing

9 of the Craziest Recent Forgery Scandals

17/10/2016

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of an art collector or museum like the possibility that a prized work of art might actually be a worthless forgery. And yet, despite the best efforts of experts to safeguard against such chicanery, fake works masquerading as priceless original continue to litter the market.

Art history is rife with high profile scams, such as that of Han van Meegeren, a disillusioned painter who developed a complicated system of baking his Old Master-style work to age it, and subsequently sold $60 million in fake Vermeers to world class museums and Nazi leader Hermann Göring during the late 1930s and early 1940s. (While current art historians are quick to slam his work as obviously inferior, Van Meegeren actually had to paint a “new” Vermeer at trial to prove he had not sold the Nazis a priceless original.)

Related: String of Suspected Old Master Fakes May Reveal ‘Biggest Art Scandal in a Century’

In recent weeks, the art world has been rocked by perhaps the biggest forgery scandal to hit the art world since Van Meegeren’s unmasking. The extent of the Old Master forgery ring is as of yet unknown, but Sotheby’s has already issued a refund to the buyer of a $10 million Frans Hals portrait, sold in 2011 in a private sale through London dealer Mark Weiss. James Martin’s Orion Analytical, a Williamstown, Massachusetts-based company which investigates artworks, found modern-day materials in the canvas, proving it to be a forgery.

Franz Hals, Portrait of a Man, one of a series of Old Master works sold by a French dealer that authorities now believe may be forgeries.

Franz Hals, Portrait of a Man, one of a series of Old Master works sold by a French dealer that authorities now believe may be forgeries.

Other paintings are now also implicated, including a Lucas Cranach the Elder, from the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, that was seized by French authorities from the Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix in March. An Orazio Gentileschi painting on lapis lazuli, also sold by Weiss, and a purported Parmigianino have been identified as suspect as well. Rumor has it that works by up to 25 different Old Master paintings may be involved. (For a break-down on what we know so far, read “The Frans Hals Forgery Scandal, Explained.”)

Related: Plot Thickens In Dispute Over Seized Cranach Painting

All the paintings appear to have originated with one man, an obscure French collector-turned-dealer named Giulano Ruffini. The works appear to have had next-to-no provenance, save that they came from the collection of French civil engineer André Borie. Ruffini insists he never suggested they were the real deal, and that eager dealers were the ones to declare his paintings Old Master originals.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus (1531). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus (1531). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The art world was quick to fall in line, with London’s National Gallery displaying the Gentileschi and the Pamigianino popping up at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. At one point, the Louvre in Paris launched a fundraising campaign to buy the Hals, dubbing it a “national treasure” after it was authenticated by France’s Center for Research and Restoration.

Related: Suspected $255 Million Old Master Forgery Scandal Continues to Rock the Art World

The fact that so-called experts were fooled suggests that connoisseurship, long the gold standard of Old Master authentication—which does not rely on science but a less tangible ability to sense the presence of a great artist’s hand—can no longer be relied upon.

Orazio Gentileschi, David Contemplating the Head of Goliath. Courtesy of the Weiss Gallery.

Orazio Gentileschi, David Contemplating the Head of Goliath. Courtesy of the Weiss Gallery.

Perhaps most frightening of all, there is no telling how many fakes still lie in plain sight, accepted as originals by experts and the public alike. Famed contemporary forgers such as Wolfgang Beltracchi and Mark Landis, for instance, have infiltrated many museum collections. In 2014, Switzerland’s Fine Art Expert Institute estimated that 50 percent of all work on the market is fake—a figure that was quickly second-guessed, but remains troubling.

Related: Artist Hides Forgery in Major London Museum

As artnet News continues to follow this developing story, here are just a few of the most high-profile art forgery cases that have come to light in recent years.

James Martin's expert report shows the signatures from four Knoedler paintings that were purported Jackson Pollocks. The top two signatures are quite similar. The bottom right signature shows signs that the name was first traced onto the canvas using a sharp tool, and is very similar to the signature on the bottom left, which is misspelled "Pollok." Photo: James Martin.

James Martin’s expert report shows the signatures from four Knoedler paintings that were purported Jackson Pollocks. The top two signatures are quite similar. The bottom right signature shows signs that the name was first traced onto the canvas using a sharp tool, and is very similar to the signature on the bottom left, which is misspelled “Pollok.” Courtesy of James Martin.

1. Knoedler Forgery Ring
Glafira Rosales, an obscure Long Island art dealer, her boyfriend, and his brother enlisted Pei-Shen Qian, a Chinese artist in Queens, to paint Abstract Expressionist canvases in the style of such masters as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and others. The venerable Knoedler gallery, which closed in 2011 as the forgeries came to light, still claims they believed Rosales’s story that the works were part of an undocumented collection sold directly by the artists to an anonymous “Mr. X.”

Related: Knoedler Fraud Trial Settles

Whether or not the gallery was in on the scheme (one of the many claims against Knoedler went to trial earlier this year but was settled before gallery president Ann Freedman could testify), they still sold the worthless works for $80 million, leaving a slew of lawsuits, some still unresolved, in their wake.

Uzbekistan's State Art Museum, Tashkent. Courtesy of Abdullais4u via Wikimedia.

Uzbekistan’s State Art Museum, Tashkent. Courtesy of Abdullais4u via Wikimedia.

2. An Inside Job in Uzbekistan
Even possession of an original work of art doesn’t protect you from worry. The Uzbek State Art Museum, for instance, discovered that over the course of 15 years, its collection was systematically pillaged by a group of employees, at least three of whom have since been convicted.

Over 25 works by European artists, including Renaissance great Lorenzo di Credi and modern Russian artists Victor Ufimtsevand Alexander Nikolaevich, were swapped out for copies. The employees then sold the originals on the black market for a pittance.

There are many forgeries of Alberto Giacometti's <em>Walking Man</em>. Courtesy of Cornell University Museum.

There are many forgeries of Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man. Courtesy of Cornell University Museum.

3. Thousands of Fake Bronzes Sold for Millions
A forgery ring busted in 2011 is still having repercussions across the Alberto Giacometti market. Dutch Giacometti forger Robert Driessen made €8 million ($8.9 million) selling forged sculptures, along with thousands of fake bronzes, before his misdeeds were discovered. In 2015, the case again made headlines when a German dealer was caught trying to sell one of the works still at large to an undercover agent.

The State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, Turkey. Courtesy of Husshho via Wikimedia Commons.

The State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, Turkey. Courtesy of Husshho via Wikimedia Commons.

4. A $250 Million Heist in Turkey
Forgeries again came into play at Turkey’s State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, where a group of museum officials and criminals are believed to have teamed up to steal some 302 works from the institution between 2005 and 2009. The crime was discovered in 2012, when the museum realized that 46 pieces in the collection had been replaced by copies. Another 30 works also raised suspicion.

The case was solved in late 2014 thanks to a tip from an anonymous caller.

Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz lecturing at the Washington County museum of Fine Arts in 2013. Photo: Natasha M. Spoutz, via Wikimedia.

Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz lecturing at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in 2013. Courtesy of Natasha M. Spoutz, via Wikimedia.

5. An Art Dealer Sells Fakes Through eBay
Using a variety of aliases, Michigan-based dealer Eric Ian Hornak Spoutz created fake paperwork to help sell dozens forged works by Willem de KooningJoan Mitchell, and other artists. Because the transactions were conducted through eBay, Spoutz was charged with wire fraud.

He may have even taken in the Smithsonian, which has six works in its the collection that originated with Spoutz.

Two Civil Guard agents inspect one of the fake Joan Miró drawingsPhoto via: Guardia Civil

Two Civil Guard agents inspect one of the fake Joan Miró drawings. Courtesy of Guardia Civil.

6. A Covert Investigation Blows Open a Spanish Forgery Ring
A Spanish forgery ring dealing in fake Joan MiróPablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse drawings was uncovered by Spain’s Civil Guard in January 2015 after a six-month investigation dubbed Operación Mirones (Operation Voyeurs). The authorities first spotted the fakes entering the country in July 2014, but opted to put the suspect under surveillance.

The investigation uncovered a Zaragoza-based art dealer’s scheme to sell the counterfeit works for hundreds of thousands of Euros, and nine fakes were recovered during a raid that put a stop to the illicit operation.

The artist Lee Ufan.Photo: Studio Lee Ufan Courtesy Château Mouton Rothschild

The artist Lee Ufan. Courtesy Studio Lee/Ufan Château Mouton Rothschild

7. Lee Ufan Authenticates Forgeries
In an unusual case, South Korean art star Lee Ufan claimed 13 suspected forgeries as his own original work, even after South Korean art dealer named Hyeon admitted they were counterfeits. Seoul police began investigating the case in February, and indicated that there were as many a 50 fake works at hand when Hyeon was indicted in June.

Nevertheless, Ufan was unswayed by the evidence, insisting that “an artist can recognize his own piece at a glance.”

Laurent Kraemer. Courtesy of photographer Jean-Daniel Lorieux/Kraemer Gallery.

Laurent Kraemer. Courtesy of photographer Jean-Daniel Lorieux/Kraemer Gallery.

8. Furniture can be forged too…
In June, antiques dealers Laurent Kraemer, head of Paris’s venerable Kraemer Gallery, and chair specialist Bill Pallot, were arrested on suspicion of selling the Palace of Versailles four counterfeit medallion back chairs for €1.7 million ($1.9 million). Counted as “National Treasures,” the chairs were thought to be among a group of 13 created by Louis Delanois for the Palace living room in 1769, where they belonged to Louis XV’s last mistress, the countess du Barry.

Related: Versailles Staffers Caught Selling Counterfeit Tickets

The problem is that there are now more than 12 chairs from the set floating around (the 13th, a larger version made specially for the King, is thought to be lost). The Kraemer Gallery maintained its innocence, but withdrew from the Biennale des Antiquaires, which was held in Paris in September.

Orlan. Photo courtesy Orlan.

Orlan. Photo courtesy Orlan.

9. But probably not facial modifications…
French artist Orlan sued American pop star Lady Gaga for forgery after the release of the 2011 hit video “Born This Way,” but ultimately lost her case. Orlan pointed out similarities to her piece Bumpload (1989), in which she added prosthetic ridges to her face, and Woman With Head (1996), which featured a decapitated head on a table. After losing her $31.7 million lawsuit, Orlan was ordered to pay the singer and her record label €20,000 ($22,000)

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Source: 9 of Art History’s Most Surprising Forgery Scandals | artnet News

October 19th, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, vervalsing

Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

An Unknown Man was believed to have been by Frans Hals and was sold by Sotheby’s in 2011—the auction house has now cast serious doubt over its authenticity

In the latest development in a growing scandal over several Old Master paintings, the authenticity of which are in serious doubt, Sotheby’s New York provided new details on the rescinding of a 2011 sale to a US collector of a portrait sold in good faith as a Frans Hals. The auction house confirmed it reimbursed the buyer “in full” after discovering the painting was a forgery, which was first reported by our sister paper, the Journal des Arts, on 30 September.

The painting was sold in 2011 by Sotheby’s and the London dealer Mark Weiss to Seattle-based collector Richard Hedreen for $10m. It was purchased for €3m by Mark Weiss from Giulano Ruffini, whose estate near Parma was raided by French and Italian police last April. Before that, the Louvre had tried to buy the portrait, which was declared a “national treasure” in France.

Now, Sotheby’s indicates that “after receiving consent” from Weiss, it informed Hedreen of “a possible issue with the authenticity of the painting” and that a subsequent “in-depth technical analysis established that the work was  a forgery.”  Sotheby’s confirms it then “rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full”, adding that the company means to “keep its promises when problems arise”. Weiss, who has not paid back his 50% share of the sale by Sotheby’s, says further technical analysis is needed.

Sotheby’s acted “after the seizure by French police last March of a work attributed to Cranach”, which had been sold to the Prince of Liechtenstein by Colnaghi Gallery. As we revealed at the time, this painting also belonged to Ruffini.

Sotheby’s indicates that the study of the painting it believed was by Frans Hals was undertaken by “one of the leading experts on the field”, Orion Analytical, before being “peer reviewed by another leading conservation scientist”. The analyses “showed the presence of modern materials used in the painting”. Sotheby’s says in the statement that a cross-section of the painting revealed “trace evidence in ground and paint layers” containing “synthetic materials first produced in the 20th century”.

Ruffini told us he had sold dozens of paintings over the past few decades. But he never claimed any of them were by Old Masters. “I am not an expert, only a private collector,” he insisted. “If these paintings were later attributed to Correggio, Gentileschi or the Bruegels, or any other great artist, the experts, the dealers and the curators are responsible.” The dealers in question respond that these works have impressed the best experts, including the Louvre’s curators and laboratory.

“[Mark] Weiss, strongly believes, as do others in the museum and scientific world, that more forensic analysis needs to be done before making a final judgement on this painting,” says a spokeswoman for Weiss Gallery, referring to the painting attributed to Frans Hals.

Source: Serious doubts grow over Old Masters sold by Giulano Ruffini

October 12th, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries, vervalsing

‘Moriarty of the Old Master’ pulls off the art crime of the century: Market in crisis as experts warn £200m of paintings could be fakes’

10/1/2016

  • The suspect Old Masters described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’
  • In one case Sotheby’s in London forced to take back an £8.4m ‘Frans Hals’
  • Experts are concerned because the alleged fakes are so difficult to spot 
  • Scandal is so embarassing that few art figures are willing to speak openly

The art world has been rocked by a haul of apparent forgeries by the ‘Moriarty of fakers’. Pictured, an Unknown Man said to be by Frans Hals

The art world has been rocked by a haul of apparent forgeries by the ‘Moriarty of fakers’. Pictured, an Unknown Man said to be by Frans Hals

The art world has been rocked by a haul of apparent forgeries by the ‘Moriarty of fakers’ that could cost investors £200 million.

The suspect Old Masters – said to be by artists including Frans Hals and Lucas Cranach – have been described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’.

In one case, Sotheby’s has been forced to take back an £8.4 million ‘Frans Hals’ and The Mail on Sunday understands the auction house is now pursuing the London dealer who supplied the painting.

Experts are particularly concerned because the alleged fakes are so difficult to spot from the real thing.

Earlier this year, the Prince of Liechtenstein had a painting seized by French authorities amid suspicion that it was a forgery. And it is feared that up to 25 more ‘Old Masters’ will be revealed as possible fakes in the coming weeks after a judge launched an investigation.

The paintings at risk could be worth up to £200 million.

Yesterday, internationally renowned art dealer Bob Haboldt said: ‘This is the biggest art scandal in a century. There has been nothing like this since the “early Vermeer” scandal of the 1940s [when doubt was cast on a number of pictures by the Dutch master].

‘It has put an entire generation of dealers on alert. The careful marketing of these highly sophisticated forgeries using primarily older materials has caught the market by surprise. The implications will be that buyers will insist on more guarantees, scientific and financial.’

The scandal is a matter of such embarrassment that few art figures are willing to speak openly, but one well-known dealer described the individual behind the copies as ‘the Moriarty of fakers’, because they are so brilliantly constructed.

The scandal began to take shape earlier this year when a painting by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach and owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein was seized by authorities at an exhibition in the South of France. 

Venus, dated 1531, had been sold by the Colnaghi Gallery in London in 2013 to the prince for £6 million but is now understood to be under examination by experts at the Louvre to assess its authenticity.

The suspect Old Masters have been described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’. Pictured, David by 'Gentileschi'

Venus by 'Cranach'

The suspect Old Masters have been described as the ‘biggest scandal in a century’. Pictured, David by ‘Gentileschi’ (left) and Venus by ‘Cranach’ (right)

The Cranach has been linked to a painting titled An Unknown Man, attributed to Dutch master Frans Hals, and a work called David With The Head Of Goliath, attributed to Italian master Orazio Gentileschi.

Both paintings were bought by London dealer Mark Weiss, with the Hals being sold on to a distinguished US collector. Sotheby’s took a cut for brokering the ‘private treaty’ sale.

However, when the collector, from Seattle, discovered the Hals painting was connected to the seized Cranach, he complained to Sotheby’s and their experts are understood to have subsequently decided it was a fake.

Sotheby’s were later forced to reimburse the collector and are said to be threatening legal action against Weiss to recover their losses.

Mr Haboldt said: ‘These three painters can be resold in the international market for millions and tens of millions. They are very hot names in the business and much sought-after. 

‘The works are difficult to detect as forgeries but they lack any credible provenance and references in the numerous publications about these artists. The latter should have made the principal dealers suspicious.

Sotheby’s are said to be threatening legal action against Mark Weiss (pictured) to recover their losses

Sotheby’s are said to be threatening legal action against Mark Weiss (pictured) to recover their losses

‘The willingness of Sotheby’s to accept the return of the portrait by Frans Hals and indemnify the buyer sets the stage for several more of these cases to come to light.

‘But first, the international art world will have to wait for the results of the French investigation. Whispers in the trade have revealed a list of some 25 Old Masters produced by this particular forger’s workshop. I understand this list will be revealed soon.’

The Gentileschi is said to have been sold to a young US collector based in the UK, for an undisclosed amount, and was displayed at the National Gallery in London until recently. Haboldt said it is believed a ring of Italian forgers are behind the Old Masters and some of them have already been questioned by French authorities.

The common thread to these paintings is they passed through the hands of unknown French dealer Giulano Ruffini, who claims he has discovered a string of Old Masters.

Ruffini, 71, however, insists that he never presented any of the paintings as Old Masters. He said: ‘I am a collector, not an expert.’

Neither Mark Weiss nor Sotheby’s would comment, while Mr Ruffini’s lawyers could not be reached. The National Gallery said: ‘Gentileschi’s David With The Head Of Goliath has until recently been on temporary loan to the National Gallery from a private lender.

‘It was part of a small display of works by the artist that came to an end last week and it has now been returned to the owner. The gallery always undertakes due diligence research on a work coming on loan as well as a technical examination.’

Source: ‘Moriarty of the Old Master’ pulls off the art crime of the century: Market in crisis as experts warn £200m of paintings could be fakes  | Daily Mail Online

October 5th, 2016

Posted In: Auction Houses and stolen objects, fakes and forgeries

Indigenous art: How fake works disrupt the market and disempower local artists

10/5/2016

Posted

This year, Gabrielle Sullivan and her colleagues at the Indigenous Arts Code went to some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country for overseas visitors.

They visited Circular Quay in Sydney, the Queen Victoria Markets and Swanston Street in Melbourne, Darwin and Alice Springs, looking to buy arts and craft done in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander style.

“We asked the vendors the same series of questions … we’d go and look at an item and we’d ask ‘Who was the artist?’, ‘Where’s the artist from?’, ‘What’s their language group?’,” Ms Sullivan said.

“[In] one blatant example of the fakes being out there, I went into one shop to purchase an artwork, and I was told straight out that it came from Bali when I asked.

“The guy in the shop then went on to say: ‘Most of the Aboriginal work that we sell isn’t from here. It’s from Indonesia, so it’s not Aboriginal artwork in the first place.'”

Art is an extension of its creator, and traditional cultural art from Indigenous Australians is a visual interpretation of the rich history of one of the oldest living cultures on Earth.

The visual interpretation transferred onto traditional artefacts is sacred knowledge, willingly shared in this day and age by Indigenous countrymen and women — though in modern society it can seem as if nothing is sacred, and exploitation of tradition is inevitable.

And although some say imitation is the highest form of flattery, the scale on which fakes are being produced is having an impact on Indigenous artists.

Artists encouraged to paint outside own culture

Leonard Andy — a Diru traditional owner of the Mission Beach area in Queensland, and a painter and maker of traditional objects — says he has been asked to asked to produce works that don’t belong to his culture.

“I’ve been asked in the past to paint didgeridoos, and I come from the rainforest,” he said.

“The people asking me to paint the didgeridoos weren’t Indigenous but they were tourist operators. I told them that I didn’t do it, and it wasn’t my culture in the rainforest.

“First they offered me $50. It went all the way up to $150 for each didgeridoo if I painted one. But I still said no … It’s Aboriginal, and I’m Australian, but it doesn’t come from our area in the rainforest.”

The problem goes beyond artefacts made in Bali for overseas tourists. It extends to forgeries, fraudulent activity, and exploitation of artists.

Laurie Nona, a lino cut artist from the Torres Strait island of Badu and the manager of the Badu Art Centre, said seeing fake art makes him weak.

“That’s disempowerment … these people don’t have a culture, all they’re looking at is dollars, and what they gain from producing,” he said.

“They don’t have no connection to it.”

Code relies on members doing the right thing

The Indigenous Art Code is just one organisation established to protect the rights of artists in Australia like Andy and Nona.

Ms Sullivan, the code’s chief executive, said it was set up after the 2007 Senate inquiry into misconduct in Australia’s Indigenous art trade.

“One of the recommendations was to establish the code,” she said.

“It’s not a mandatory code, it’s a voluntary code, so we rely on our members to do the right thing. Some do, some don’t.”

The legality of the trinkets and artefacts on sale in Australian airports and markets is dubious, but the devil is in the detail.

Can a work be legitimate if it’s in an Indigenous style, but not purporting to be Indigenous per se?

“The ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission] can look at things under misleading and deceptive conduct, but that needs to be brought to their attention,” Ms Sullivan said.

“Without bringing it to their attention, how are they going to know about it?

“From the code’s perspective, and we’re working on this with Arts Law and the Copyright Agency, it would just make a lot more sense for these products not to be there in the first place.”

Distorted market means no money going to communities

Derek Farrell, the ACCC’s regional director for the Northern Territory, said the body would investigate anyone breaking the law.

“People living on country are dependent on this industry as a very important income source,” he said.

“It is incredibly unscrupulous to undermine, to distort that market by producing fake artworks, which ostensibly are Indigenous work, but there is no money going back to those communities.”

One artist feeling the impact is Charmaine Green, a writer and visual artist belonging to the Badimaya/Wajarri language groups in Western Australia.

“We don’t have a lot of the opportunities that people do in the more urban areas,” she said.

“We have to rely on websites, and it is costly to get to Perth to have exhibitions and to have markets and those types of things.

“We really feel it when there’s any downturn anywhere else in the industry.”

Mr Farrell said breaches of consumer law can be penalised with fines of $1.1 million per offence.

“We’re also able to get orders that prevent this activity happening again, and in some circumstances, we can get orders for compensation,” he said.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, visual-art, design, craft, community-and-society, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-culture, australia, nt

Source: How fake artworks are disrupting the Indigenous art market

October 5th, 2016

Posted In: fakes and forgeries

No deathbed confession in Gardner heist

By Shelley Murphy and Stephen Kurkjian Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent October 01, 2016

By Shelley Murphy and Stephen Kurkjian Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent 

There will be no deathbed confession from a Connecticut mobster suspected by the FBI of having information about the whereabouts of $500 million worth of masterworks stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum decades ago, his lawyer said.

The family of 80-year-old Robert Gentile, who is in federal custody awaiting trial on gun charges, was warned Wednesday by the US Marshals Service to “prepare to make end of life arrangements” because he is in critical condition, his lawyer said in a telephone interview.

Hartford attorney A. Ryan McGuigan said he rushed to a South Carolina hospital where Gentile is near death Friday and told him, “If at any time there was a critical moment to give up an old secret for the possibility of seeing your loved ones one more time, this was it.”

He suggested authorities would probably let Gentile die at home in Manchester, Conn., surrounded by his family if he gave up the artwork. However, McGuigan said, a teary-eyed Gentile responded, “But there’s no paintings.”

“Deathbed confessions are not uncommon,” said McGuigan, adding that even though his client has always insisted he has no information about the stolen paintings, he felt it would have been reckless not to explore the possibility that Gentile was ready to talk.

“The importance of the artwork to humanity has never escaped me,” McGuigan said. “And so with a glimmer of hope I went down to see if there was a possibility that there would be a miracle.”

The attorney said he called Gentile’s wife, who is also in failing health, and his son from the hospital room and handed the phone to the old mobster, who said his goodbyes and told them he loved them.

McGuigan declined to provide specifics about Gentile’s illness but said he was barely conscious during the nine hours he spent with him at the hospital Friday and “his systems are shutting down.”

However, he said his client, who had been on life support the day before, was better Friday and breathing on his own.

Gentile is one of a handful of low-level criminals who were identified by the FBI as persons of interest in the heist, and most of the others are dead.

Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office, declined to comment on Gentile’s condition or what effect it might have on the ongoing investigation.

Anthony Amore, the Gardner museum’s security director who is working with the FBI to recover the stolen artwork, said, “We’re not sitting around waiting for deathbed confessions, we’re actively working every day.”

Two men disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum on Boston’s Fenway in the early hours of March 18, 1990, tied up two guards, and disappeared with 13 masterworks. They include three Rembrandts — including his only seascape, “Storm on the Sea of Galilee” — and a Vermeer.

The theft remains unsolved, despite a $5 million reward and promises of immunity. In 2013, the FBI announced it was confident it had identified the two thieves, both now deceased, but declined to name them. Authorities said they believed some of the artwork changed hands through organized crime circles, and moved from Boston to Connecticut and Philadelphia, where the trail went cold.

The FBI began focusing on Gentile in 2009 when the wife of Robert Guarente, another person of interest in the theft, told agents that before his death in 2004, he gave two of the stolen paintings to Gentile.

A federal prosecutor revealed in court earlier this year that Gentile last year offered to sell the paintings for $500,000 each to an undercover FBI agent. He also flunked a polygraph exam when he denied that he knew about plans to rob the Gardner museum beforehand and when he denied that he had the paintings or knew where they were, the prosecutor said.

But Gentile’s lawyer said his client was “just pretending” to have the paintings; and he disputed the reliability of the polygraph results.

Gentile was slated to stand trial in federal court in Hartford this month on gun charges, but it was postponed indefinitely after his health deteriorated and his lawyer sought a psychological examination to determine his mental competency.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.

Source: No death bed confession in Gardner Museum heist – The Boston Globe

October 2nd, 2016

Posted In: diefstal uit museum, Museum thefts