Showing posts with label fakes and forgeries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fakes and forgeries. Show all posts

August 27, 2017

Conference - Authenticity, forgery, provenance, and ethics at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting


The 2017 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, will be held in Boston on November 18–21, 2017 and will feature an interesting panel on legitimacy and forgery and the ethical and unethical trade and publication of historic archaeological material with limited or no provenance. 

The title of the panel is:  Avoiding Deception: Forgeries, Fake News, and Unprovenanced Material in Religious Studies

Session date and time:  November 19, 2017 from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Rome and Location: Orleans (Fourth Level) - Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Invited speakers include: 


According to the annual meeting program book this session will delve into the following: 

Why is provenance important? Although the forgery of documents and artifacts has always been a primary concern in religious studies, recent events surrounding the colloquially designated “Jesus’ Wife Fragment” and various unprovenanced fragments touted as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls have propelled scholars into a new era of forgery studies. While some may suppose that scholars are easily able to identify and disprove such items as forgeries, the complicated landscape in which such materials surface and are distributed has necessitated the adaptation of scholarship to remain diligent in preserving authentic items of history for study. This panel will address the challenges facing scholars in identifying and disproving forgeries in our current era. Invited speakers will similarly offer a space to examine the complexities and current status of forgeries in religious studies, identifying ways scholars can navigate the field without perpetuating erroneous materials in their scholarship. Time will be left following the panel for students and faculty to meet and mingle, in order to facilitate networking between scholars interested in similar material.

February 5, 2017

New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust writer's book reviewed in the Guardian.

By Judge Arthur Tompkins

In October last year, art-historian, curator, art-crime writer and founding trustee of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust published her ground-breaking Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: the New Zealand Story (Awa Press, Wellington NZ; 2016). A fascinating and fine read, the book has just been reviewed in the UK's the Guardian.  

As the reviewer notes:

From stolen Italian masterpieces ending up on the walls of a provincial South Island gallery, to a steady supply of fake Dick Frizzells being sold online, New Zealand’s history has been rife with art crime.

And the shady world of fakes, forgeries and fraudsters in the South Pacific island nation has for the first time been subjected to a comprehensive book, by art historian and independent curator Penelope Jackson.

The ARCA Blog featured the book at the time of publication here.

Art Thieves is available in good bookshops around New Zealand - and also at the publisher's website here.

November 15, 2016

Has a Toronto art historian uncovered a treasure trove of Van Gogh sketches? Probably not

Self Portrait with Straw Hat, July or August 1888, Arles
Attributed to Vincent Van Gogh  © Éditions du Seuil
Yesterday, at a much talked about media event at the Academy of Architecture in Paris, Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, a professor emerita in art history at the University of Toronto presented the findings of her new book, Vincent Van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook.  The book contains a grouping of sixty-five previously unknown sketches, primarily drawn using a reed pen with brown ink, which the historian asserts is a long-lost sketchbook, made up of drawings done by the artist while he lived in the south of France.  

Historically, there are four confirmed Van Gogh sketchbooks which encompass 150 drawings from the artist's stays in Antwerp, Nuenen, Paris and Auvers-sur-Oise. All four of the previously known sketchbooks are part of the Van Gogh Museum collection in Amsterdam and are meticulously stored in their prints and drawings archive, away from public view due to their sensitivity to light. 

These recognized sketchbooks contain rudimentary sketches and figure studies, with only a few more detailed and elaborate compositions. One of these, a sketchbook with a marbled inside cover, contains some of the artist's first known drawings of people and places. This sketchbook captures the rural life of the artist's stay in Nuenen. 


This pocket-sized sketchbook contains Van Gogh's sketch of the church in Nuenen. This not only dates the sketchbook, but it helps to authenticate the oil on canvas painting he later completed for his mother, Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen which was stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002 and then recovered 14 years later in Italy

The newly discovered  40.5 by 26 centimeters sketchbook presented in Paris this month contains among other drawings, a self-portrait as well as portraits of bar-owners Marie and Joseph Ginoux, the artist Paul Gauguin, and a series of landscapes and still lifes.  There are also three sketches of the Yellow House on Place Lamartine in Arles.  Van Gogh rented four rooms in the now famous house on May 1, 1888. 

But the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is not convinced of the sketchbook's authenticity.  On the basis of 56 high-quality photographs sent to the museum for consultation in 2008 and 2012, their experts gave an early opinion on its sketchbook's authenticity – an opinion omitted in this recent publication, most likely at the behest of the owners of the would-be Van Gogh album.

Citing the type of ink represented in the drawings, (Van Gogh used purple and black ink) the state of the paper and deviations in the technical skills and characteristic style of the famous artist's other sketchbooks, experts at the museum do not believe that these drawings are the authentic work of Vincent Van Gogh.  In a harsh rebuttal they stated that "the drawing style of the maker of the drawings in The Lost Arles Sketchbook is, in the opinion of our experts, monotonous, clumsy, and spiritless."

They also voiced serious concerns about the sketch book's provenance. 

The museum's public statement on the purported sketchbook can be read in its entirety here.

But Welsh-Ovcharov stands by her theory that the work is not a fake and has stated "Van Gogh experimented here with the rhythm of the lines and just distribution. Remember: these works are made without [a] perspective frame. And in a very short time. The drawings are not intended as finished compositions. Rather, they are doodles. "

Discovering a new sketchbook, flush with so many previously unknown drawings, 126 years after the artist's death would be highly unusual, but the choice of ink is also an anomaly. 

When Van Gogh sketched, he often favored pen-and-ink, using a quill, steel, or reed pen instead of black chalk, charcoal or pencils.  One of the inks he preferred was crystal violet (CV), a synthetic dye that was first made in 1883, not sepia shellac, as was used in this newly discovered sketchbook. 

Brightly-coloured CV triphenylmethane ink was inexpensive to manufacture and often replaced natural dye inks in works of art during Van Gogh's lifetime.  But the cheap ink came at a high price, one that proved devastating to the Van Gogh's authenticated sketches.  Crystal violet (CV) ink is very UV light sensitive. 

Photodegradation to Vincent's drawings, sketched using the ink, have discolored rapidly.  Some of the artist's drawings using the ink have turned various shades of brown and others have faded almost entirely.  This sorrowful reality can be seen in the contrasting photographs of one of Van Gogh's drawings below.

Montmajour (May/June 1888), drawing with purple ink,
Van Gogh Museum (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Left– 1928 photograph; Right –  2001 photograph
Time being a cruel master, Van Gogh's CV ink sketches have proven to be so sensitive to ultraviolet light that many of them are virtually unrecognizable.  To protect what remains, the museum's curators at the Van Gogh Museum have stored the bulk of the artist's ink drawings, his letters, and the four authenticated sketchbooks in the museum's archives, away from harmful UV light and of necessity, away from public view.  

Analyzing these historic photographs, we can see an eighty-year time lapse of the ink doing its damage.  The black and white photograph above and to the left is from Jacob Baart de la Faille’s 1928 premier catalogue raisonné des œuvres de Vincent van Gogh. The color photo above and to the right is from the Van Gogh archive. The image today is sadly almost unrecognizable and shows in detail just how severely the artist's purple ink drawing has faded, now just a former brown shadow of its former self.

Curiously, the images in the newly discovered sketchbook, reproduced in this YouTube video, remain crisp and vibrant, now matter how clumsily they were executed.  


By comparison, photographs of Van Gogh's drawings inside his four sketchbooks in the Van Gogh collection show that the artist's own drawings have not fared near as well.  Each of them has been preserved in the following digital collection albums:





Comparing the two, not as a professional curator, which I am not, but as a curious writer, I would ask Professor Welsh-Ovcharov why she thinks that the famous painter would have stopped using purple or black ink, switching to seppia shallac ink in this newly-found sketchbook, only to then revert back to CV ink later?  

I would also ask her why the sketches in the four Van Gogh Museum sketchbooks represent more rudimentary imagery than the more elaborate "doodles" she feels were drawn by Van Gogh this long lost album.

By: Lynda Albertson










 true then it would be the fifth known intact sketchbook Vincent van Gogh. The four previous examples date  and were previously published as a facsimile edition. 

February 2, 2016

Tuesday, February 02, 2016 - , No comments

"Picasso" Painting Recovered in Turkey is Deemed a Fake

The purported Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) canvas of “Woman Dressing Her Hair” seized by Turkish authorities has been deemed a fake on Monday by the Paris-based Picasso Administration, charged with managing the artist's estate.   Agence France-Presse confirmed with New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that the original artwork, a portrait of Dora Maar, remains safe and is part of their collection.

Image Credit AFP
The Picasso Administration issued a statement saying "the painting seized in Istanbul is a copy" of the famous 1940 work by the great Spanish artist.

Art forgery is the creating and selling of works of art which are falsely credited to others and often involve famous artists or artists who's work can be easily duplicated. 

Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques as well as digital and paper catalogue raisonné -- the most comprehensive, authoritative resource for authentication help to make the identification of forged artwork much simpler to identify. 





November 18, 2015

Price and Provenance

Record prices were achieved at auctions last week with Chinese billionaires leading the way.

On the 11th of November, a Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau bought an exceptional 12 carat blue diamond, known as the Blue Moon for CHF 48.634 /US$ 48.5 million at Sotheby’s in Geneva, the highest price ever paid for a gemstone at auction, adding to his already large collection of art, jewellery and fine wines. 

On the 9th of November, Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché was sold in New York for US$ 170.4 million, achieving a record for the hapless artist ranking in the top ten list of the most expensive paintings ever sold.  The name of the bidder from China was revealed to be Liu Yiqian, a Shanghai billionaire collector, who is already famous for his Ming Dynasty “Chicken Cup” bought for HK$ 281.24 million / US$36.05 million  in April 2014, the highest price ever paid for Chinese porcelain at an auction. 

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), ‘Nu couché, painted in 1917-18

Modigliani was the artist of the week. Only a few days earlier on 4th November, another painting by Modigliani Paulette Jourdain was sold for US$ 42.8 million, well above its estimate, at Sotheby’s otherwise lacklustre sale of the collection of its former owner A. Alfred Taubman. Sotheby´s identified the buyer as a private Asian collector. 

Before these trophy items go behind the thick security doors, residents and visitors in Hong Kong had a chance to inspect them in person a month earlier together with other luxury collectables, exhibited as part of the auction houses’ highlight tours to stimulate the region’s increasingly eclectic taste in art. The costly campaign of the rivalling auction houses probably paid off. 

Anyone who fancies a Modigliani nude, yet are without the wherewithal needed, can still decorate their walls with a lookalike copy, skilfully handmade in Southern China. The chance that your friends may spot it as a reproduction is probably about 10%, as with the case of the fresh copy of the 18th century portrait Young Woman by Jean-Honoré Fragonard of bought online for GBP£ 70 for the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s project ‘Made in China’ project earlier this year. Even the Gallery’s curators were marvelled at the skill of the Chinese copyist although they insist that we should be able to easily spot the difference with closer scrutiny. 

But can we really?

It is a bitter fact that many large-scale conspiracies such as Beltracchi and Knoedler/Pei-Shen Quian were not uncovered for more than a decade. In China, it took nearly 10 years until someone eventually spotted at a Hong Kong auction house that a former librarian, Xiao Yuan, stole 143 Chinese master paintings from the library of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and replaced them with his copies. His copies were again substituted for further fakes. 

Living artists’ works can also be copied. Recently a Chinese auction house withdrew a living artist’s painting from its sale in Hong Kong after the artist himself challenged the authenticity of the work, which was presumed to be destroyed in 1989 and allegedly repainted in 1992, according to the very artist’s letter provided by the seller. As demonstrated in this case, it can be difficult to prove authenticity even for contemporary art in the Chinese art system, where credible documentation is often not in place. The distinction between a copy and a forgery is not fully recognised in the local culture, nor is the importance of a work's collection history, often referred to as an artwork's provenance. As demonstrated in the recently concluded exhibition “Copyleft Appropriation Art in China” at Power Station of Art in Shanghai, the concept of appropriation may be very different between China and the West. 

The free port that is Hong Kong has become one of the world’s largest art marketplaces and is consolidating its status as the region’s main art hub with the expected opening in 2019 of an iconic new public museum M+. Overshadowing the luminosity, Hong Kong also has a reputation as a playground for the illicit trading of counterfeits and smuggled artworks, many of which are transported in bulk from Mainland China. 

Recognising this growing issue, one which has been undermining the credibility and further development of the region’s art market, a group of experts with respective backgrounds in art, insurance, forensics, crime prevention, security and commercial risk management founded a local art risk consultancy TrackArt in 2011. Based in Hong Kong, it is the first and, currently, only provider of forensic DNA coding services for artworks in Asia. 

Together with cataloguing and recovery assistance services, TrackArt’s DNA coding secures the artwork’s onwards chain of provenance and validates future identification, which works most effectively in the primary market if applied in the artist’s studio. Using licenced technology from a UK technology partner, TrackArt offers more than one format of DNA suitable for various types of materials and surfaces of paintings, works on paper, antiquities, ceramics, etc. 

It’s high time the art market learnt the importance of securing the provenance of artworks, both now and in the future.

Here is a link to TrackArt’s website

-----
(Selected information sources)

Dulwich Picture Gallery ‘Made in China’ Project
http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/about/press-media/press-releases/fragonards-young-woman-revealed-as-replica-in-made-in-china-project/

Chinese curator’s forgery
http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/22/china/china-art-forgery/

Geng Jianyi’s claim
http://theartnewspaper.com/market/art-market-news/159750/

Shanghai’s Power Station of Art’s current exhibition, Copyleft
http://www.powerstationofart.com/en/exhibition/detail/735erz.html

Is it plagiarism or is it ‘shanzhai
http://theartnewspaper.com/news/159569/




February 17, 2015

The Stakes are in the Stroke: "Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project"

Photograph: Robert Sanderson for the BBC
By Liza Weber, ARCA '14 Alumna

In 1811 Sir John Soane drew up the blueprint for Dulwich Picture Gallery, Britain’s first public art gallery. That is, Sir Radical Soane drew up a template for how to house Francis Bourgeois’ first-class private collection: open its Bourgeois doors to the public. Two centuries on and the template—save for the ticket price—has not been tampered with. For where the conceptual artist, Doug Fishbone, today asks the public to discern the dud in the gallery’s Permanent Collection of Claude’s to Canaletto’s, its welcome mat is down.

But a dud, mind you, that is meant to spark—spark intrigue, in anyone who has ever suspected that a Christmas gift was too-leather-good-to be-true. Intrigue in you, the sceptic. Spotting the fake from the fortune is not reserved for the BBC-coiffed-likes of Fiona Bruce as she uncovers, in the attic, ancestors with considerable assets. Spotting the fake from the fortune is as good a guess yours as it is (t)heirs.

Made in China, somewhere South. Mailed to Dulwich, South London. Mailed with a questionable £120 invoice (supposedly Meishing Oil Painting Manufacture Company kept the carbon copy). And at last hung in the frame belonging to the fortune. All within the dead of night.

Photograph: Robert Sanderson for the BBC
When the 10th morning of February was broken, I donned my detective hat to try my eye at the collection’s 270 paintings for the counterfeit thing. Ok, I lie. I tried my eye at about a dozen. My reasoning? 
1. The painting had to be at eye-level. To hang it in the upper echelons of the burgundy galleries would be a gesture, paradoxically, below the belt. 
2.  It was French. 
The French bit was an itch. A hunch. Over something, something perhaps remembered…

French Art was particularly popular post-WWII, which meant that a great number of fakes surfaced to supply the demand. They have been washing-up like driftwood ever since. French Law—as if to build a dam—allowed the confiscation and burning of counterfeit works at the behest of the artist’s estate. (I think it still does.) A French fake then is about high stakes. If Fishbone genuinely had a bone to pick with authenticity, or lack thereof, he surely would have pitched his conceptual stakes high? Call my reasoning what you will, the fact is, I’m an art critic in the making and freelance, so with nothing much to lose. Here goes my guess.

It was a toss-up between Nicolas Poussin’s
1.  'Landscape with Travellers Resting (or A Roman Road)', 1648
2.  'The Triumph of David', c.1628-31
It was the frame around the frame of the former that found me suspicious:
1.  The wall panel text read This canvas seems to have been painted as a pair to the ‘Landscape with a Man washing his Feet at a Fountain (or A Greek Road)’ now in the National Gallery London. I am always wary of a wall text that finds space, in less than 100 words, to use up one with ‘seems’. I am looking at some sort of semblance—a likeness, image, or copy of. Seeing double. X-ray examinations show that the canvas was first used for a partial copy of Poussin’s ‘Moses trampling Pharaoh’s Crown’, now in the Louvre. Now I am seeing triple. Why ever not a fourth?
2.  The gallery walls, an unforgiving Payne’s grey, were scuffed here, there, in fact, everywhere. Fresh tracks of movement. But tracks that you would be, if anything, lazy not to cover up with a lick of paint. No, it was all too obvious…
Plus Poussin’s travellers are behind a pane of glass. It is simply impractical to get up close and personal. And yet ‘close and personal’ is exactly what Dulwich Picture Gallery is asking of its visitors. No, this Poussin is too obscured from fine observation.

‘The Triumph of David’ is comparatively clear. One of Poussin’s most studied and cerebral compositions, it is the focal point of the French room, bordered by a burgundy archway and a beckoning chaise longue. Come sit it says. So I stand, an inch-close to the canvas. Load a Google image on my iPhone. Compare physical with pixelated paint. There is something altogether off here:
1. Look at the cracked foundation in the lower left corner; its fallen stone fragments. Count the sandal straps. Follow the extraordinary length of the ladies fingers, pointing here, there, no there. This is geometry. That art historical school that gallery director Ian Dejardin distrusts for trying too hard to tie down the imprecise phenomenon of artistic composition. A school that is perhaps here apt. Getting close and personal means to study not merely the flatness of the piece (for every Fake is, according to the guess-pert, Flat), but the properties and relations of points, lines, surfaces, and solids. It is perhaps then time to take a solid seat. And stare a while longer. 
2. For this Poussin is the Director’s Choice. Which is to say, ‘The Triumph of David’ made it into Dejardin’s selected 37 paintings for book publication. It made the cut. Why not a copy? Remember, Doug Fishbone is in collaboration with Dejardin. His choice matters.
Plus this is a painting of a procession, a procession—Dejardin reminds us—that passes through a representative section of humanity where every gesture and action is significant. If Fishbone and Dejardin wanted to stress the whole(sale) sordid affair of Chinese Studios, and their replicas as downright disruptive to the Market, they would have surely stressed it in a painting where every stroke counts?

To conclude let me approach the one big question—the one big question Fishbone and Dejardin set to Xylophone tones in their video trailer for the project—
Does it have an aura?
I won’t bore you with Walter Benjamin. For now, let us just agree that the aura is in the waiting. The reveal: 28th April 2015. I, for one, am counting.
And as I count I discover that I was not the only one staring at the Poussin on the 10th morning of February. The Daily Mail caught a lady on the chaise longue. She was donning a red beret. How Very French.  

Ms. Weber is a freelance journalist.

For additional reading on this subject, please follow this link to Angelina Giovani's piece on the blog "plundered art", a perspective from the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Angie is also an ARCA alumna.

October 7, 2014

ARCA’s network assists in getting two fake de Hory forgeries withdrawn from sale

By Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Trustee and Lecturer

On Saturday 4 October 2015 an article appeared in the online edition of The New Zealand Herald, a national newspaper in New Zealand, about two forgeries by the well-known forger Elmyr de Hory, coming up for public auction. 

The article ran under images of one of the forgeries alongside a genuine Monet:


The article said:

Two "Monet" paintings by a legendary art forger have surfaced at an Auckland auction. ... While Monet originals fetch millions, the two fakes will have reserves of only $1000 each when they go under the hammer at Cordy's auction house on Tuesday.
"They are colourful and nice paintings, but you don't look at them and think, 'Boy, that's an amazing masterpiece'," said auctioneer Andrew Grigg.
"They don't look like a real Monet - the detail, the quality of the originals would be just absolutely amazing."

The article described how the two paintings were said to have been purchased from de Hory by one Ken Talbot:

Retired London bookmaker Ken Talbot, ... owned more than 400 de Hory works that adorned every wall of his plush Regents Park townhouse.
Now, an Auckland descendent who inherited two items from him is selling two "Claude Monet" paintings.

A member of the ARCA family, Penny Jackson, Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery here in New Zealand, first spotted the article.  The link to the article then went to curator and art fraud specialist Colette Loll who attended courses at the inaugural ARCA Postgraduate program in 2009, and is the founder and director of Art Fraud Insights (http://www.artfraudinsights.com.

Mark Forgy is de Hory’s heir and author of 'TheForger’s Apprentice: Life with the World’s Most Notorious Artist’ (2012), a memoir of his life with de Hory up until de Hory’s untimely death in 1976. Colette Loll and Mark Forgy have collaborated significantly on several projects including a book, documentary film and Colette’s exhibition, ‘Intent to Deceive’ (www.intenttodeceive.org), for which Mark was a major lender.

Ms. Loll immediately sent the article on to Mr. Forgy.

Closing the circle, Mark Forgy then emailed the auctioneers, Cordy’s in Auckland, New Zealand.  He said to them:

“Please be aware that Talbot himself was a con man who established a robust cottage industry of fabricating phony works by de Hory. I write about Talbot in my book ‘The Forger's Apprentice : Life with the World's Most Notorious Artist’. I was de Hory's friend, personal assistant and am his sole legal heir. I authenticate his works. I assure you that the painting you intend to auction in the manner of Claude Monet is NOT by de Hory.  I have added this bogus de Hory to scores of others I've harvested from online auction sites.

Mark later commented:

When I said that Talbot started a cottage industry of fabricating phony works by Elmyr, he wasn't the painter of them. Talbot had others do the fake Elmyrs. I suspect they came from some Asian source, but I can't be certain.

The next day, on the morning of the auction, Tuesday 7 October, news came through that Cordy’s had commendably and immediately withdrawn the two paintings from sale.  Under the headline ‘Auction House Pulls Paintings When Told Forgeries Faked’, Mark Forgy is quoted in the follow-up article in the New Zealand Herald:

"Talbot fabricated an oft-told story that he acquired hundreds of works by Elmyr in exchange for unpaid loans. All this is just nonsense," Forgy said yesterday. Forgy now monitors online auction sites for fake de Hory works and has added the latest pair to the collection.
He said the irony of the famous faker himself being copied "is never lost on me".
"The subject of others forging his works came up only one time. We both contemplated that for a moment and then laughed at the far-fetched notion," he said.
Auctioneer Andrew Grigg confirmed their withdrawal from today's antique and art sale.
"Of course it is never our intention to deceive and we were not aware that the faker's works were faked," he said.

So, within a few short days of the initial article being published online, ARCA's network was instrumental in helping to ensure that these forgeries of de Hory’s forgeries of two "Monets" were not wrongly sold to an unsuspecting buyer who might have purchased them because they were, as it initially seemed, ‘genuine’ forgeries. 

Mark Forgy, reflecting on how this all unfolded, comments:

I think the issue of "fake fakes" merits attention in that it speaks to the deeply flawed art market. It brings art fraud to another level of criminal inventiveness. More alarmingly, we see a marketplace that incentivizes such activity for the lack of regulation of the art trade. The loopholes in the safety net (if one exists) are welcoming portals for anyone intent on committing larceny. One inescapable irony is that art never seems to gather as much attention as when its authenticity is questioned, and through this examination process these fraudsters hold up a mirror, showing us who we are as a society, our values, and how we view art. So, in an unintended way, they become our social conscience. No, there's no lack of irony here.


Ironies all round indeed ...

July 18, 2014

ARCA '14 Art Crime Conference: James Moore on "The Fall of the House of Knoedler: Fakes, Deception and Naiveté"

James C. Moore presenting at ARCA conference in Amelia
(Photo by Paula Carretero)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Retired trial lawyer James C. Moore presented "The Fall of the House of Knoedler: Fakes, Deception and Naiveté" in the first presentation of ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in Amelia on June 28.

Moore discussed how the Manhattan gallery, which had sold art since 1856 only to fall upon hard times in the middle of the 20th century, had drifted away from selling Old Masters and Cubist art to modern works where the competition was intense to gain access to the art.

Facing bankruptcy by the end of the 1960s, the gallery was sold to Armand Hammer in 1971 for $2.5 million. Under Hammer's leadership, Ann Freedman was hired a salesperson, but when ownership passed to Armand’s grandson Michael, he appointed Freedman director of the gallery with a focus on contemporary and abstract artists such as Rothko, de kooning, Diebenkorn, Motherwell, and Pollack.

In the early 1990s, Glafira Rosales appeared at the art gallery and showed Freedman an unknown Rothko sketch she claimed had been owned by a “Mr. X”, a closeted gay Filipino or Swiss man who had begun collecting abstract expressionist works which he had stored in Mexico – or Switzerland -- with the assistance of a New York art dealer, David Herbert. Rosales told Freeman that Mr. X had died and that his son -- identified only as "Mr. X, Jr." -- had decided to liquidate his father’s collection. And to do so, the paintings would be consigned, one at a time, to the Knoedler Gallery. Beginning in 1994, Rosales bought paintings every 3-6 months for a total of 40 works and agreed to sell them to the Knoedler Gallery for a fixed amount. Freeman would offer paintings for sale at higher prices – hanging the works in other shows by the artists, preparing write-ups, claiming that her experts had viewed the works although they had not authenticated them. In total, the Knoedler Gallery received $64 million for 40 paintings of which Rosales received $20 million.

In early 2000s, a Knoedler Gallery client bought a work ‘by Jackson Pollack’ for $2 million but after the painting failed authentication, the painting was returned and the purchase price refunded. Other similar events followed -- Sotheby’s would not sell a ‘Pollack’ in 2011, and when the owner asked for a $17 million refund, the gallery closed its doors.

The Knoedler Gallery has been named in eight lawsuits, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation of Ann Freedman, Glafira Rosales, and Rosales’ long-time companion Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who worked in a restaurant in New York City and sold art in the Chelsea district, along with Diaz's brother. According to Rosales, all of the paintings she sold to the Knoedler were fakes and were allegedly created by a 75-year-old artist, Pei-shen Qian, who was asked to create art in the style of abstract expressionist artists for people who could not afford originals. 

Before Rosales was arrested, Diaz went back to Spain and Qian went to China. Rosales pled guilty for collecting money and paying no income taxes (she sent the money to Spain). Rosales now faces sentencing up to 20 years. She is cooperating with federal authorities possibly in the hope of receiving a lesser sentence. Spain has been asked to send Diaz back to the U.S. to face charges.

Moore posed the question of accountability: 
Was Freedman actively or passively involved in the forgery scheme? No one but the buyers suing her has accused her of a crime. In fact, she sued a dealer for defamation who accused her of lack of care. Negligence (lack of care in verifying a paintings provenance) claims against dealers and galleries cannot be maintained when the parties have a contract relationship. The wording of the agreement between the parties, therefore, will be critical to the success or failure of the buyer's claim.

Moore also discussed the relative responsibilities of the gallery, the dealer, the expert authenticators and the buyer in fake painting claims.  Ultimately, Moore noted that as of this time, Rosales is free on bail, Freedman is running another gallery and is named as a defendant in eight lawsuits, the Diaz brothers are hoping not to leave Spain, and Qian is conducting art shows in Beijing.
  

Moore, an accomplished trial lawyer and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, is also a student of art history. http://www.jamesconklinmoore.com/

June 20, 2014

ARCA '14 Conference, Panel IV: The Genuine Article: Fakes and Forgeries and the Art of Deception

On Saturday June 28 in Amelia, these presenters will make up the panel on fakes and forgeries at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference:

Would the real Mr. Goldie please stand up?
Penelope Jackson M. Phil, University of Queensland, MA University of Auckland
Director, Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, New Zealand

Forgery and Offenses Resembling Forgery
Susan Douglas, PhD Concordia University
Lecturer (Assistant Professor) Contemporary Art and Theory, University of Guelph

In the Red Corner: “Connoisseurship and Art History”, and the Blue Corner: “Scientific Testing and Analysis” – Who’s right in determining Authenticity?
Toby Bull, Senior Inspector of Police, Hong Kong Police Force
Founder, TrackArt (Art Risk Consultancy), Hong Kong

June 17, 2014

The Knoedler Case: NYT's Cohen questions how art dealers weren't suspicious when artist signature was misspelled

Journalist Patricia Cohen in her June 11 article in The New York Times, "Note to Forgers: Don't Forget to Spell Check", says the misspelled artist signature was a clue:
When angry collectors started suing Knoedler & Company for selling dozens of multimillion-dollar forgeries, the gallery’s former president, Ann Freedman, insisted that she and her colleagues had had no reason to think that any of the paintings were counterfeit. “If Ann Freedman had any questions about these works, she and her husband would not have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in them,” her lawyer, Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., said of the paintings attributed to modern masters like Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Now, newly released documents in a continuing civil case show that at least one of the works bought in 2000 by Ms. Freedman herself contained a prominent clue that something was awry. The artist’s signature was spelled incorrectly: Pollok instead of Pollock.
You can finish reading Ms. Cohen's article online for The New York Times.

Attorney James C. Moore will discuss the Knoedler case ("The Fall of the House of Knoedler: Fakes, Deception and Naiveté") on June 28 at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in Amelia.

April 1, 2014

Colette Loll's "Intent to Deceive: Fake and Forgeries in the Art World" on display at Springfield Museums until April 27

Han van Meegeren, Portrait of
a Lady
, Yale University Art Gallery
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Colette Loll, who attended ARCA's 2009 Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in Amelia, is the curator of "Intent to Deceive: Fakes and Forgeries in the Art World", an independent exhibit currently on display at the Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, MA.

The exhibit looks at the forgery careers of Han van Meegeren (1889-1947), Elmyr de Hory, Eric Hebborn, John Myatt, and Mark Landis.

The "Gallery" section of the website for "Intent to Deceive" includes four works by van Meegeren: Girl with the Blue Bow, in the style of Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675), ca. 1924, gelatin-glue medium and pigment over obscured 17th century painting fragment, courtesy of The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York; Portrait of a Lady, 20th century, oil on canvas, courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery, Mabel Brady Garvan Fund; Head of Christ, in the style of Vermeer, 1940-41, oil on canvas, courtesy of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; and The Procuress (after Baburen), in the style of Dirck van Baburen (Dutch, c. 1595 -1624), 1940, oil on canvas, courtesy of The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

In an interview with Patricia Cohen's Dec. 31, 2013 article "So Valuable, It Could Almost Be Real" in The New York Times, Ms. Loll explained:
What links these men, said Colette Loll, the exhibition’s curator and an art investigator, are “frustrated artistic ambitions, chaotic personal lives and a contempt for the art market and its experts.” Ms. Loll, who organized the exhibition with the nonprofit group International Arts & Artists, said she was shocked when she heard the $31,000 estimate for the security arrangements demanded by just the Boijmans. That sum is close to the $39,500 that “Christ and the Scribes in the Temple” — the painting van Meegeren created in 1945 to prove he was a forger rather than a collaborator — fetched at Christie’s auction house in 1996.
Jonathan Keats, author of Forged: Why Fakes Are The Great Art of Our Time (Oxford University Press, 2013) -- reviewed in The Journal of Art Crime in the Spring 2013 issue -- wrote about the exhibit on March 27th for Forbes in "At This Massachusetts Art Museum, Some Forgeries Are Faker Than Others (But Better Not Trust Your Eyes)":
An important exhibition of art forgeries curated by Colette Loll, currently at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, naturally provokes this question. Intent to Deceive includes the forgeries of some of these great fakers together with works painted as their own. Comparisons are revealing. 
As a matter of visual impact, both categories are approximately equivalent. De Hory’s Picassos and Myatt’s Monets remain aesthetically consistent before and after these men confessed. Creative permutations on the artists’ signature style, the paintings serve the beneficial role – as I argued in my book Forged – of posthumously increasing Picasso and Monet’s output. (Perhaps Picasso didn’t need it.) 
On the other hand, there is a profound conceptual difference between paintings made before and after the forgers confessed. The fraudulent fakes of these forgers were remarkably subversive, exploiting the unjustified assumptions of the society in which they were operating (such as the infallibility of institutional authority). When the forgeries were discovered to be fake, those unjustified assumptions were called into question. The most important function of art in our time – as a psychological and social provocation – was spectacularly served by these counterfeits. Lacking the context of fraudulence, the later works of Myatt, Hebborn and de Hory are conceptually flat. 
But never trust a master faker. Though John Myatt appears to have gone completely straight, Eric Hebborn managed to confound the art world even more totally after he started selling Hebborns in the ’80s, because they advertised his consummate skill as rumors arose that he was still faking. And de Hory? Don’t believe the bit about his aristocratic heritage. His true life story is still getting sorted out, and there are rumors that a factory in China has been faking signed Elmyrs.
Here's a link to a post about the Kickstarter campaign on the documentary "Art and Craft" featuring the work of Mark Landis.

November 21, 2013

Knoedler & Company and Julian Weissman: Milton Esterow, Editor and Publisher of ARTnews, on "Fakers, Fakes & Fake Fakers" and the Glafira Rosales Art Fraud Case

In publisher Milton Esterow's article "Fakers, Fakes and Fake Fakers" in ARTNews, he focuses on art forgery and 'well-known forgers reveal the creative methods they use to copy the masters: David Stein (died 1999) who turned out Marc Chagalls; Eric Hebborn (murdered in Rome in 1996) who forged and misattributed to give the art experts something to discover; Leo Stevenson a 'London copyist' who has made copies for the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office; and Elmyr de Hory (suicide in 1976) the subject of Clifford Irving's biography Fake!.
Art forgery has been a hot topic lately since the disclosure that Pei-Shen Qian, a 73-year-old immigrant from China, working out of his home in Queens, reportedly created at least 63 drawings and paintings by Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, and Richard Diebenkorn.
The works were sold or consigned by Glafira Rosales, a dealer of Sands Point, New York, to two Manhattan dealers, Knoedler & Company, which closed in 2011, and Julian Weissman. Over a period of 15 years, the works were sold to collectors for about $80 million. Knoedler, its former president Ann Freedman, and Weissman have consistently stated that they were convinced that the works were authentic. Freedman says she showed the paintings to a number of experts, who confirmed the authenticity and quality of the works. 
The case against Rosales is known as United States of America v. Glafira Rosales, a/k/a “Glafira Gonzalez,” a/k/a “Glafira Rosales Rojas,” defendant. She pleaded guilty in September to charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. As we went to press, no one else had been charged in the case, but Assistant United States Attorney Jason P. Hernandez indicated that additional arrests were contemplated.
In May, 2013, "Manhattan US Attorney Charges Art Dealer with Hiding Millions of Dollars in Income from Fraudulent Sales of Artwork";

In July, 2013, "Long Island Art Dealer Indicted in Massive Art Fraud, Money Laundering, and Tax Scheme"; and

In September 2013, "Art Dealer Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to $80 million Fake Art Scam, Money Laundering, and Tax Charges".

August 11, 2013

David A. Scott's "On Art Forgery: the History of a Modern Obsession by Thierry Lenain (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Professor David A. Scott reviews Theirry Lenain’s Art Forgery: the History of a Modern Obsession:
Thierry Lenain writes that if Otto Kurtz (who wrote a much admired volume on art forgery several decades ago) should rise from the dead, that he would be disappointed with the present volume. Here Thierry Lenain underestimates the significance of his recent work. Art Forgery: the History of a Modern Obsession, which presents much interesting new material in a crowded field of competing volumes, also called “Art Forgery,” of which there are scores of identically-titled works, almost an allegory for the subject itself, as much of the content of these volumes is repetitive. Lenain’s works stands out as a significant research endeavour, not just another run-of-the-mill rehash of the lives of famous forgers, of which there are a continual stream. Incidentally, in common English use, we sometimes make a distinction between a fake and a forgery. A fake is a copied work of art, such as a series of Monet’s hung as a backdrop in a play: these are fake Monet’s, but they are not forgeries. If the same pictures of Monet’s are copied, signed and then sold as an original Monet, then we refer to that as a forgery, but these distinctions may not apply in other languages, so we do not necessarily see authors whose first language is not English following this precept. Forgery implies criminal deceit which a fake does not: at least that is the way in which several European writers use the two words, which makes an often useful distinction between the two actions or motives involved.
David A. Scott is a Professor in the Department of Art History at UCLA, and the Founding Director (2003-2011) of the UCLA/Getty Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation, UCLA.

Thierry Lenain is a professor of art theory at Université Libre de Bruxelles.

This book review is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney (electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com). Associate Editor Marc Balcells (ARCA '11) is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

October 5, 2012

"Rembrandt" painting seized by Croydon police four months ago declared a fake (Scotland Yard confirmed to Croydon Advertiser)

Reporter Gareth Davies, in an exclusive article, reported the arrest of a businessman 'in possesion of what is believed to be a stolen Rembrandt painting' in June (This Croydon Today, UK, 'Stolen Rembrandt' painting seized in Croydon police raid, June 22, 2012):
The oil on canvas, believed to be worth more than £2 million, was recovered during a special police operation in Croydon High Street on Monday last week. A man in his sixties was arrested and taken to Croydon Police Station. Scotland Yard said the arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate. Detectives refused to comment on whether a painting by Dutch master Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was among the items seized during the operation. But a source told the Advertiser: "The way the officers were handling the painting and keeping it safe, they clearly believed it was a Rembrandt." It is understood the painting has been sent away to experts to be authenticated. The arrested businessman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, lives in Surrey.
Tom Gardner for the Daily Mail asked: "Has 'stolen Rembrandt worth £2million' been found in CROYDON? Businessman arrested after police raid as art experts try to verify painting" (June 22, 2012):
Police were seen treating the potentially precious object with extreme caution as they removed the work from the building in south London following the raid on Monday June 11. Now experts have been called in to examine the work of art to establish if the work recovered, really is a Rembrandt masterpiece. Scotland Yard, who are being tight-lipped about which one of the 205 currently missing works by the Dutch master, also arrested a businessman in his sixties. Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's specialist crime directorate made the discovery during a long-running investigation aimed at recovering assets from criminals.
Gardner interviewed Dick Ellis, an ARCA Trustee and lecturer:
Security expert Richard Ellis, who has worked with the Met Police's specialist Art and Antiques squad, said: 'If this is a genuine Rembrandt oil painting, I think £2million would be a massive undervaluation. 
'If you were to put one before an auction today it would fetch between £30million and £50million. 
Mr Ellis, who last year was part of the team which recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso stolen from a Swiss exhibition in 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, added: 'To sell a real Rembrandt on the open market would be really, really difficult. 
'Any buyer undertaking their due diligence would look at the catalogues of Rembrandts and it wouldn't take them very long to see it was stolen.' 
'Stealing to order is fiction. They may get stolen and used as a form of currency or as collateral. 
'The media would publish the valuation at the time of the theft and the criminal would work on the basis that it would be worth to them anywhere between three and ten per cent, because that's what it can get passed across on the black market. 
'It acts as a sort of international currency.'
In October, less than four months after the initial report, "GarethD2011" reported for the "Croydon Advertiser" that the "Rembrandt masterpiece seized in Croydon was a fake" (October 4, 2012):
A REMBRANDT masterpiece seized in Croydon was a fake, the Advertiser can reveal. Businessman Shaun Stopford-Claremont, 62, was arrested in possession of the painting during a special police operation in Croydon High Street in June. The painting was then sent to top art experts to be authenticated. If a genuine work of the Dutch master it could have been worth as much as £50 million. But this week Scotland Yard confirmed to the Advertiser the painting is a forgery. Mr Stopford-Claremont, of Redhill, Surrey, has since been re-bailed until December 11. His arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate. Police would not initially confirm the painting was among a number of items seized.

December 6, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 - ,, No comments

Post from Norway: Kvalheim accused of selling fake Hamsun and Ibsen documents

by Therese Veier, ARCA Blog Norwegian Correspondent

Geir Ove Kvalheim has been indicted by Økokrim, Norway’s art crime unit, accused of committing extensive forgeries of writings and documents from the world famous authors Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen. One of the buyers of Kvalheim's alleged forgeries is The National Library in Norway[1]. The library bought the supposed fakes via Norli’s antique shop[2]  in Oslo.

When the news about the scale of the forgeries and the indictment broke, Kvalheim found himself in the middle of a scandal that has really upset Norwegian collectors and the National Library as well as experts and scholars on Hamsun and Ibsen[3].

After an ongoing police investigation since 2008, Økokrim has now indicted the 41-year-old man with gross fraud in connection with the resale of a number of writings and documents that allegedly originated from Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen[4]. The indictment includes 13 documents, amongst others [5]:
-manuscript fragments of the novel På Gjengrodde stier / On Overgrown Paths by Knut Hamsun;
-manuscript fragments of the novel John Gabriel Borkman by Knut Hamsun;
-registration letter for the NS (6)  signed by Knut Hamsun;
-pocket almanac from 1943 with Knut Hamsun’s own handwritten notes;
-handwritten obituary by Knut Hamsun for Vidkun Quislings death[7];
-two first editions by Henrik Ibsen’s novel John Gabriel Borkman with dedications to Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Edvard Munch;
-a letter from Henrik Ibsen to Knut Hamsun dated 1891, inscription by Knut Hamsun dated 1948; and
-other letters and personal greetings

Constructed ownership
- This is a unique criminal case in both Norwegian and European context. We are very familiar with art forgery, but in this country we have never seen attempted fraud with historical documents in this way or to this extent before, says chief public prosecutor Hans Tore Høviskeland in Økokrim’s environmental crime department. [8]

This type of fraud is really grave, but sadly I do not think it is unique, it may be unique in Norway but not in European fraud history. Fraud cases involving forgery of provenance and documents can be very tricky and hard to detect, but after the well known British case involving John Myatt and John Drewe perhaps people are becoming more aware.

During Økokrim’s investigations to reveal Kvalheim’s forgeries they used font experts and performed provenance research. According to the indictment, information about previous ownership in several cases was constructed by Kvalheim without the knowledge of the various people listed as previous owners. [9]

It sounds as if this was a rather poorly constructed fake provenance that should have been easy to detect when Kvalheim first approached the antiques dealers.

Lars Frode Larsen, a Hamsun researcher, was among those who already early on raised the alarm about possible fakes of Hamsun related documents from Kvalheim’s collection.

-The police investigation has taken more than three years, but I am glad charges have now been brought, says Larsen. [10]

Had a commission agreement
According to Økokrim’s indictment most of the sales where made in the years 2005-2006, through a commission agreement Kvalheim made with Norli’s antique shop in Oslo. Via Norli’s antique shop, several of the fake documents made their way into the National Library’s collection, who during this period bought eight fake Hamsun documents for the total amount of 695 000 NOK (92 000 Euro). [11]

In March 2006, Kvalheim also offered Cappelen's antiquarian bookshop in Oslo the chance to buy a supposedly unknown play by Henrik Ibsen entitled The Sun God. However the bookshop employees expressed doubts about the object's authenticity and did not take it on commission to resell any of these items. However, now, Kvalheim is also charged for this attempt of fraud.

In addition to these crimes, Kvalheim is accused of having sold a fake award evidence, the object is a gold German Cross from the Waffen SS. This was sold to the shop Derek’s Militaria in Tønsberg for the sum of 20 000 NOK.

Embarrassing to have been duped
The head of Norli’s antiquary, Rolf Warendorf is shocked at the extent of the fraud, but believes this is a one-time event.

- It is embarrassing to have been duped in this way. This is not a good thing for us, says Warendorf. [12]

It was Warendorf who first met with Kvalheim in 2005.  He considered the items to be authentic, and agreed to take them in commission.

Probably more fakes in the market
Both Økokrim’s investigators and Hamsun expert Lars Frode Larsen warns collectors that there may be more fakes in the market.
- We have seen that there have been other fakes in circulation than those covered by the indictment, said Høviskeland in Økokrim. [13]

-I encourage people who have purchased items that can be linked to Kvalheim, to perform a thorough check of previous ownership history on the objects purchased, advises Larsen.[14]
On Tuesday 29th of November Warendorf from Norli’s antigue shop could still not say exactly how much material the bookshop had purchased from the collector, except that it is “much more” than those contained in Økokrim’s indictment.[15]

I find some of Warendorf’s statements very alarming, particularly when he says the bookshop has not done anything with their procedures to prevent such scandals in the future. Unfortunately this illustrates the naivety and lack of knowledge about these types of crimes among some of the professionals which in turn makes it easier for conmen to slip fakes into the market.
- I am convinced this is an exceptional case. This is not something that happens every ten or fifty years, says Warendorf.[16]
The National Library has yet not made a public comment about the indictment. The defendant (Kvalheim), and his lawyer, have so far refused to make any comments.

I will continue to follow this case closely. It seems like Økokrim has made a thorough investigation. It sends an important signal that this type of fraud is treated as especially grave, because forging these type of objects can contribute to create a false impression of important people, events and works that are a part of Norwegian cultural and literary history. On the other hand it is naïve and scary that some professional dealers think this type of crime is almost non-existent, and that they seem unwilling to revise their routines for provenance research. It is much harder to reveal forgeries once they are resold and have entered the market or collections, private or public. So in the meantime, it is perhaps best for collectors to follow the old Latin saying “caveat emptor” (Let the buyer beware).

About Geir Ove Kvalheim:
Kvalheim is a Norwegian actor, director and copywriter, as well as being a collector. Kvalheim has been involved in an earlier judicial dispute. In 2009 he was convicted and had to pay Fredrik Jensen, an SS-veteran, the amount of 370 000 NOK (49 000 Euro), after an allegation concerning fraud in connection with a planned documentary film about Norwegian SS-veterans.[17]

In 2001 Jensen also gave the director a loan of 200 000 NOK for production of the documentary; however, the documentary was never finalised.

Text by Therese Veier, an art historian, lawyer and writer. Currently works at Public Art Norway.

Sources:
[6] Nasjonal Samling was a party formed by Vidkun Quisling.
[7] Vidkun Quisling lived from 18 July 1887 – 24 October 1945, and he was a Norwegian politician. On the 9th of April 1940, with the German invasion of Norway in progress, he seized power in a Nazi-backed coup d'etat that garnered him international infamy. From 1942 to 1945 he served as Minister-President, working with the occupying forces. His government, known as the Quisling regime, was dominated by ministers from Nasjonal Samling, the party he had founded in 1933.