We have partnered with Codex as our first blockchain provider. Soon our users will be able to commit Tagsmart provenance records to the Codex blockchain.
Tom Toumazis MBE, Tagsmart’s Executive Chairman, was invited to speak at this year’s Professional Advisors to the International Art Market Conference, which took place at Sotheby’s Grosvenor Galleries at Aeolian Hall on 11 July.
He took the opportunity to discuss Tagsmart’s journey, which began with Steve Cooke, our Chief Innovation Officer, and renowned frame-maker Mark Darbyshire. Led by Tom, in the past couple of years we gradually assembled an esteemed board of advisers formed of the UK’s foremost security, art conservation, software and materials science experts.
Throughout Tagsmart’s evolution, we have endeavoured to create a solution which appeals and conforms to our clients needs and wants. We have worked extensively alongside scientists and conservators ensuring our Tag does not interfere with the artwork and is applied with ease. The outcome is our triple-lock solution for authentication encompassing the DNA Tag providing proof of origin, the Certificate sealing ownership and our digital Provenance Record acting as a digital passport over time.
After a year since Tagsmart’s launch, we are pleased to be working with some of the UK’s leading artists including Mario Testino and Gary Hume and to have tagged over 5,000 works of art.
We are honoured to have shared our story with other professionals in the field, discussing the challenges of establishing authenticity and how we believe technology is leading the way forwards in addressing this issue.
The London Festival of Architecture is Europe’s biggest annual architecture festival, and returns to the city this month with hundreds of events exploring ‘memory’. To celebrate the event, we dug into our own memory and recalled five impressive artworks that explore the ideas of shelter and remembrance.
Ghost, Rachel Whiteread’s breakthrough piece, is a plaster cast of a living room, modelled on a typical Victorian terraced house in north London, similar to the one in which the artist grew up. In its melancholic beauty, Ghost is a resonant monument both to the individuals who once occupied this room and to our collective memories of home.
Grayson Perry’s first building, a striking ‘secular chapel’ filled with his artwork, opened only for a limited period. Perry has described the building as the ‘Taj Mahal on the river Stour’ because it tells the (fictional) story of a local woman, Julie, whose husband had the house built as a shrine on her death.
Among Pop icon, Roy Lichtenstein’s last subjects was the image of the suburban American home. The smaller-than-life sculpture House III evolved from Lichtenstein’s large-scale interior paintings of the early 1990s and from work that revived his interest in playing with perspective. Exploring inverted perspective and symbolically complex messages of housing and shelter, the corner of the piece appears to project forward toward the viewer. However, by walking around the work one sees that the corner actually recedes and that the eye has been fooled.
Also known as The Tent, the artwork was a tent with the appliquéd names of, literally, everyone Tracey Emin had ever slept with, but not necessarily in the sexual sense. It achieved iconic status, was owned by Charles Saatchi and was destroyed in the 2004 Momart London warehouse fire. Emin has refused to re-create it.
Exploring the concept of shelter and the familiar notion of housing, José Bechara establishes physical, metaphysical and visual relations to the habitat, creating poetic connections with the interior and the exterior of this place. By reorganising the space with a rigorous method, the artist uses everyday objects as geometric forms and inverts the idea of the shelter by putting objects that relate to the human presence outside of the house.
Just a year after the launch of Tagsmart Certify, a new standard for authenticity in art, we proudly present our new Smart Tag for canvas works, the latest addition to our family of tags designed for the mediums you love.
“The problem of fakes and forgeries continues to plague the art market. Tagsmart’s new Smart Tag is a powerful countermeasure, which will offer protection to a larger segment of the market. I am encouraged by the innovation which is setting a new standard in authentication.“ – Colette Loll, Art Fraud Insights
The Smart Tag for canvas is archival and features the latest synthetic DNA and security elements. Its pioneering design allows for a quick and easy application and renders the Smart Tag flexible and free to bend, roll and expand/shrink with the natural movements of the canvas. Following conservation best practices, the Smart Tag fragments with any attempt to transfer or remove it, making it unable for reuse.
”I believe this Smart Tag for canvas works will become a fundamental rule of thumb in protecting and securing artworks. This tag will revolutionise the art market, giving artists the opportunity to safeguard their highest valued works.“ – Deborah Azzopardi
Register now to order your Smart Tags for canvas, paper or aluminium works.
One of the most popular symbols of Easter, rabbits have been depicted by artists for hundreds of years. Dating back at least as far as the late 1600s, the rabbit used to be a symbol of springtime that connected the religious and the secular. According to History.com, the ‘Easter Bunny’ has its origins in a German tradition in which an egg-laying hare called ‘Osterhase’ brings eggs and gifts to children to celebrate the end of the Lent period (in case you’re wondering, originally eating eggs was not allowed by the church during the Holy Week).
Paradoxically though, these furry cute animals have been portrayed in the arts as both emblems of sexuality (think Playboy Bunnies!) and virginal purity. Frequently depicted beside the Roman goddess of love, desire, fertility and prosperity Venus in antiquity, the rabbit was then represented by artists of the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a symbol of virginity and innocence, often portrayed alongside Virgin Mary.
Still, the most famous portrait of a rabbit is probably Albrecht Dürer’s drawing Young Hare (1502). Deprived of any symbolism and a masterpiece in observation, its impeccable rendering served as a benchmark for centuries thereafter. The work is the Albertina Museum’s prize possession, but it’s not often on display. After a maximum of 10-12 weeks, the Young Hare needs 5 years in dark storage for the paper to rest. It was on view briefly in 2014 after a break of 10 years and will appear again for a very short time in 2018 before it goes back into hiding (sounds almost like a real-life bunny, right?).
Well, what about rabbits in contemporary art? These furry animals have been present in several contemporary works, in a variety of meanings which are still sometimes related to its iconography, albeit loosely. Here are some of our favourites:
Jeff Koons’ Rabbit (1986)
In 1979 Jeff Koons made Inflatable Flower and Bunny (Tall White, Pink Bunny), the seed for so much of his future work. This sculpture features a flower and a pink bunny that sit on top and in front of four square mirrors. Seven years later, Koons created Rabbit. The switch from the word “bunny” to “rabbit” is intriguing. The bunny is cute and floppy; the rabbit is quick and sharp. The carrot in the rabbit’s paw is wielded like a weapon, and the vinyl shell of the bunny has been replaced by stainless steel, reflecting everything surrounding Rabbit and deflecting any allusions to the sculpture’s interior. (Source: The Broad)
Dieter Roth’s Bunny-dropping-bunny (1968)
The playful and decidedly inedible ‘chocolate’ rabbit titled Bunny-dropping-bunny (Karnickelköttelkarnickel) mimics a chocolate Easter Bunny. However, it is made of rabbit droppings and straw, giving the work a humorous visual onomatopoeic quality. 😝 (Source: MoMA)
Tracey Emin’s Rabbit (2015)
One of Tracey Emin’s great virtues is her extraordinary delicacy. The grace and elegance of her lines capture the unique, untamed character of wild animals such as the rabbit in a very strong and personal manner.
Joseph Beuys’ Chinese Hare Sugar (1974)
Joseph Beuys identified personally with several animals, most notably the rabbit. He always carried its foot or tuft of fur as a talisman, and jokingly cited the pointed shape of his ears as proof of his close relationship with the creature. Beuys found sugar and the rabbit combined in a wrapped lump sugar at Documenta 5 in Kassel (1972). Both were already significant images in his work, and he subsequently produced three Hare Sugar multiples, the first in 1972, American Hare Sugar in 1974, and this work in 1979 from a sweet wrapper found in Shanghai. (Source: Tate)
Paloma Varga Weisz’s Rabbit Man with Egg (2004)
One of the enigmatic characters of Paloma Varga Weisz’s watercolour paintings, Rabbit Man with Egg resembles a scene from a fable in its conflation of myth, mirth and sexual ambivalence.
Sarah Lucas’ Pauline Bunny (1997)
Sarah Lucas stuffed variously coloured pairs of tights with cotton wadding to make ‘bunny girl’ forms, whose limply dangling arms and legs provide a representation of abject femininity, in thrall to the arena of male virtuosity as suggested by the snooker table. Pauline Bunny, in its black stockings, corresponds to the highest value snooker ball. The black stockings are also the most traditionally alluring of the selection of colours, connecting this representation of a woman to the image of a seductress. Any suggestion of power this might carry is subverted by the passivity of the floppy, stuffed body, which is clipped to an office chair, providing an emblem of secretarial submissiveness. The title of the installation, Bunny Gets Snookered, reinforces the reading of disempowerment: to be snookered, in the language of the game of snooker, means to be prevented from scoring. This bunny girl is trapped by her femininity, only to be knocked against her fellow bunnies in a game of masculine skill. (Source: Tate)
Frederick H. K. Henrion’s One Rabbit Has at Least 12 Young in a Year; 45 lbs of Meat (1941)
One of a series of WWII propaganda posters for the British War Office/Ministry of Food, encouraging the British home front to raise rabbits at home on a diet of kitchen scraps… and then eat them. 🙄
Masaya Matsuura’s Vib-Ribbon (1997-99)
Vib-ribbon’s code has been written to take into account the player’s choice of music, and any can be used to set the pace of the game. White lines form sketchy drawings of the environment and a rabbit named Vibri. As Vibri, the player walks along a string-like road filled with obstacles, their frequency generated by the soundtrack. Pressing the correct buttons at the right time will let Vibri pass unharmed; the faster the beat of the song, the quicker the player must react. If the player is continuously unsuccessful, Vibri devolves: she will change from a rabbit to a frog and then to a worm. If the player is successful, she is elevated to a fairy princess. (Source: MoMA)
Would you know any other artworks depicting these cuddly furry Easter favourites? ❤️🐰
With the arrival of spring, we felt like celebrating the upcoming launch of our new Smart Tag by asking some of our team members what are their favourite works on canvas when thinking of the new season.
The vast array in style demonstrates the wide diversity of taste in art amongst us. Nonetheless, one thing remains the same for all: there is plenty of enthusiasm and excitement for the days to come!
Luke Kang, Production and Fulfilment Manager & Artist
Lois Dodd’s Self-Portrait in Green Window (1971)
When I think of spring, nature immediately comes to mind. I feel that this piece by Lois Dodd is an embodiment of the season. The painting catches my eyes due to the use of off-green colours she uses and which I find rather curious given that the artist is known for her depiction of life and landscapes.
She portrays herself in a darker, shadowy green, giving her an undead appearance, the colours used on her self-portrait evoke a slightly sickly appearance. Yet, altogether the subject matter reflects opposing feelings, of fecundity, abundance, fruitfulness and life. I feel Dodd is making an ironic statement here possibly hinting back into the ideas of zombies and reanimation.
I also appreciate how confident she is with her painting style. She might mix paint before hand, but she doesn’t mix many colours one they are laid out on the canvas, instead opting for a flat and bold application of paint.
Freddie Powell, Product Assistant
Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) (2015)
I searched ‘the best things about spring’ and the first answer to pop up was 'because it brings the hope of some sunshine for a least a few days in a row’. I immediately thought of Alice Browne’s Powder (Poised) in which the colours of the season seem to be waiting to burst through. It’s not hard to be attracted to the almost fragrant selection of green, red and yellows on view, getting a sense for the lighter and longer days just after the clocks come forward.
Browne’s work focuses on her own fictional and imaginary architectures, shown here through connected blue lines and the works growing layered spaces between. Perhaps here she has painted spring itself, no longer just a season but a physical space for the viewer to explore and (finally) enjoy!
Annalise Brocklehurst, Business Development & Client Services Executive
Damien Hirst’s Midas of Phrygia (2007)
Damien Hirst’s Butterfly Colour Paintings remind me of spring because it is the time when trees blossom, a new life begins and our world becomes more colourful again. His piece with butterflies positioned in a circle suggests an idea of a cycle, with the passing of winter and the celebration of spring and life. Although some believe the piece could be interpreted as morbid and evoking death, as butterflies live on average for only a month, I believe the opposite. I see everything flourishing and it makes me feel uplifted and alive.
Julia Ferreira de Abreu, Marketing Manager
David Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire (2011)
This monumental 32-canvas painting forms one part of a 52-part work by David Hockney. The first time I saw this gem was at Hockney’s A Bigger Picture exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was February 2012 and I had had enough of winter. Spring seemed to be too far away and this artwork made me yearn for warmer weathers, brighter skies and flowers coming into bloom. It felt as if Hockney is inviting me to slip right inside the painting and walk along that lovely path under the trees!
The Arrival of Spring’s vibrant colours scream spring and represent the change of seasons with the same enthusiasm as mine. The rich reds and greens make me anticipate what’s to come and reflect on nature’s cycles, the passage of time and the small but significant changes that unfold daily before our eyes. Conveying the beauty and grandeur of nature’s transience and the warmth of the new season, it sets us on a journey to the rediscovery of the landscape.
Anastasia Aya Aroukatos, PR & Marketing Executive
Hope Gangloff’s Late Night (Olga Alexandrovskaya) (2015)
Recently everywhere I look I amazed by the sprouting colours all around me, shocked that in a city like London such vibrant colours and flowers actually bloom. Maybe I have never paid enough attention? The sensation of feeling overwhelmed by the beautiful weather and nature that envelops me during spring makes me think of this painting by Hope Gangloff.
I feel like I draw some parallels between his work and that of Gustav Klimt, who is one of my all-time favourite painters. I especially love the intricate details and colours in the clothing and room decor. These patterns remind me of that time of year that I wait for in anticipation to go into our storage and pull out my spring wardrobe which is filled with an array of colourful prints. At the same time, there is a lack of light and life in the colours, reminding me that summer is not yet here, but around the corner!
Earlier this week conman Richard Pearson was arrested for distributing the forged artworks claiming to belong to Norman Cornish, who died in 2014. Northumbria Police released photographs of some of the paintings and drawings which fooled gallery owners.
They are not exact replicas of Cornish originals but are painted in the artist’s distinctive style, showing scenes of everyday life.
Newcastle Crown Court heard fraudster Richard Pearson convinced gallery owners he had access to a collection of Cornish’s artworks through inheritance and a friend who wanted to sell his personal collection. He passed off a series of 14 drawings and pictures. Four of the fakes were sold on to private collectors.
There ain’t no way that’s a Caravaggio.
Let me pause and leave you with that thought, before we circle back to it.
So there I was this weekend, in the small Dutch town of Deventer for my best friend’s wedding. I walked past the enormous former cathedral, stripped to the bricks during the Reformation, en route to complete task number 1 in my duty as best man: buying a postcard and a pen. That’s when I passed a sign at the town’s museum: Een Echte van Meegeren. “An Original Van Meegeren.” What were the chances? My last book was an illustrated history of forgery, prominently featuring Han van Meegeren, Dutch art forger extraordinaire, and there happens to be a special exhibit of his forgeries a few paces from where my friend is about to get hitched? In I went.
And here’s the thing. Van Meegeren’s paintings may look nothing whatsoever like the work of Vermeer, and it remains extraordinary that the world’s leading specialists were so convinced that Van Meegeren’s forgeries were Vermeer originals — but they are extremely beautiful. They also fulfill Aristotle’s definition of what makes for great art: His paintings are good (they exhibit skill), they are beautiful (a subjective opinion, but a legitimate one) and they are interesting. Interesting not because they are some revolutionary new interpretation of art, but because of the story they embody, possibly the most dramatic of all known forgery cases. Van Meegeren was arrested after the Second World War for having sold Dutch cultural heritage (a Vermeer painting) to the enemy (Herman Göring, head of the Luftwaffe and a ravenous stolen art collector). This was considered high treason and, if found guilty, van Meegeren could have been executed. Oops. He rather frantically tried to explain his “recipe” for forging a Vermeer, but was not believed until he actually painted another one while incarcerated.
Looking at Van Meegeren’s paintings in person for the first time, I was struck by the thought: I’d love to own this.
I would love to be a forgery collector. The problem with forgeries is the whole being-duped thing. Buyers don’t want to feel that they’ve had the wool (expensively) pulled over their eyes. If you think you’ve bought a Tesla, paid Tesla prices, and it turned out that someone stuck a Tesla chassis on a Renault Zoe, you’d be pretty pissed. Same deal (but think in the millions rather than the tens of thousands), and you’ll understand the reaction of buyers who might have thought they were acquiring a Vermeer (worth tens of millions) but actually have a Van Meegeren (worth perhaps in the mid-five figures, largely because of the story behind his crime). But what if you know that it’s a Van Meegeren forgery of a Vermeer? Stripped of the fraud component, what you have is an extremely skillfully executed painting, beautiful and with a heck of an interesting story behind it. It becomes a relic of the story in which it featured, but it can also be admired for its aesthetic value.
Forgery stories pop up all the time. In recent months, suspicion has floated that there is a previously unknown master forger of Old Master paintings (or ring of cooperating forgers) whose works are bobbing to the surface. Extremely good, expert-fooling forgeries have been spotted only with great difficulty: a painting by Lucas Cranach, a Franz Hals, a stunning Orazio Gentileschi. Add to this the Caravaggio I mentioned at the start of this essay, supposedly found in a family’s attic in Toulouse. This makes for at least four extremely convincing works that divide scholars. A handful still contend that each is authentic (or at least that evidence has yet to be made public that proves otherwise). Others argue that these are recently-made forgeries. Then there is the third option: that they are copies after original works, made not with fraud in mind (and therefore not a proper forgery), but later misattributed as an original.
The idea that there is a “ring of forgers” is probably the least likely option, especially considering the works in question are skillfully executed, naturalistic works. One of only a few known proper forgery rings was in Siena in the 1930s, built up around Icilio Federico Joni, who specialized, along with his comrades, in Sienese Gothic altarpieces. But that is an outlier. Almost all known forgers have created alone (though many worked with others who functioned as front men and did the actual conning). There are some organized crime groups who dabble in forgery, but they tend to focus on far easier-to-produce, and often more valuable, modern works (like the Austrian/Slovenian gang just busted for trying to sell forged Picassos at 10 million Euros a pop). Abstract, minimalist work is artistically easier to produce than intricate, naturalistic paintings, but more than that, the materials are easier to get hold of (to resist forensic testing), and forgers do not have to replicate centuries of patina and craquelure if the work in question is only meant to be a few decades old.
So how do we know if these works are a) original, b) forgeries or c) copies that were misattributed as originals?
Forensic testing can only tell us so much. It can tell us the rough date that organic materials in a painting were made, and that’s pretty good. That should rule out a forgery, especially for Old Master works from the 16th or 17th centuries. But it can rarely guarantee authorship. Just because the Toulouse “Caravaggio” painting of Judith beheading Holofernes dates to circa 1610 does not make it a Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s work was so wildly popular that a wash of other artists sought to emulate his style (they are featured now in London’s National Gallery, at an exhibit called “Beyond Caravaggio.”) The original of this painting hangs in Rome at Palazzo Barberini, so this is necessarily either a copy by Caravaggio (and we have no historical record or precedence of him making an exact copy of one of his own paintings, as he altered them when asked to do multiple versions of a single subject, like his “David with the Head of Goliath” or “Supper at Emmaus” paintings), or a copy after Caravaggio. The latter is far more likely and, frankly, is what I thought immediately upon seeing a digital image of the Toulouse painting. It just doesn’t look good enough to be by Caravaggio himself. It looks like a solid, contemporary copy, likely by a 17th century painter who tried to learn Caravaggio’s best-selling style (which the artist fiercely guarded — he sued those who tried to ape him). It’s valuable. It’s interesting. I’d be delighted to have the work on my wall. But it ain’t no Caravaggio.
Which brings me to my point. Depending on the law of the country in question, some forged artworks proved as such in court must be destroyed (in France, for instance), a draconian move meant to make it impossible for forgers to profit from their crimes. Other nations keep forgeries for didactic purposes (Scotland Yard owns many wonderful forgeries from their successful investigations, and occasionally shows them in exhibitions) — when I taught a course on art crime at Yale, I was able to dip into recognized forgeries in the Yale Art Gallery’s storerooms and use them in hands-on seminars with my students. Forgeries should be noted as such, and it’s no good if they continue to fool people. Likewise, it probably is immoral, and should likely be illegal, for convicted forgers to profit from the sale of their art or image rights to them (this is why the blockbuster Scotland Yard exhibits at London’s V&A Museum never came with a catalogue — they would have had to pay the forgers for permission to use the images). But forgeries are beautiful, interesting, skillfully made objects that are a component of the history of art, culture and crime. As long as they no longer trick us, they are works that I, for one, would be delighted to collect.
Shortly after coming under the hammer for US$102,000 during a charitable auction in Ho Chi Minh City last week, Hanoi Old Quarter, a painting claimed to be by famous Vietnamese late painter Bui Xuan Phai has been called out as a counterfeit work.
Phai’s son Bui Thanh Phuong was among the most vocal accusers, saying his father had never painted such a work. “There are only five or six art collectors in Vietnam, so who is keeping whose paintings is a shared knowledge. There is no way a painting by my father that nobody including me has ever heard of just appears out of nowhere,” Phuong claimed.
Bui Quoc Chi, owner of Duc Minh Gallery which had put the painting up for auction, affirmed that the painting was authentic. “I will take full responsibility before the organisers [of the auction],” Chi said.
Despite Chi’s reassurance, many Vietnamese artists have weighed in their opinion on the matter with suspicion.“It does not take Bui Thanh Phuong’s words to know that the painting is a fake, as anybody who has decent knowledge in the field can tell apart the differences,” painter Nguyen Thanh Binh commented.
Binh’s comment was echoed by many other experts in the field, as they all found the painting lacking a sense of Phai-ness.
Their suspicion is founded, as Phai is perhaps the most copied artist in Vietnam, to the point that there’s a saying among insiders that goes “Phai paints more when he’s dead than alive”.
Major broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson has warned art dealers against the impact of art forgeries after the painting An Unknown Man, thought to be by Dutch artist Frans Hals and sold for £8.5 million was recently declared fake.
According to Sotheby’s, tests revealed that the painting was “undoubtedly” forged. The firm had “rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full.”
JLT warned that in many cases, collectors will not be able to claim against their insurance if they discover that their art pieces are forgeries. However, there are certain policies that cover these cases, according to Daniel Smith, a member of JLT’s Fine Art, Jewellery and Specie team.
“Although the take-up of this sort of policy is relatively low, I think we’ll start to see a significant increase as the possibilities of more forged Old Masters are uncovered,” he said.
Smith said dealers can purchase professional indemnity insurance to protect themselves from customers’ lawsuits resulting from art forgeries. However, most dealers don’t bother getting cover because of the costly nature of the policy, Smith noted.
“In light of this recent issue as well as a number of similar high-profile forgery cases this year, I would urge dealers to consider safeguarding themselves against the impact – both in terms of money and reputation – that cases such as these can have on their business,” Smith said.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Thursday that it will legislate a new law regarding artwork distribution in an effort to root out the distribution of counterfeit works, recover public trust in Korea’s art market, and establish a healthy trading platform for creative crafts. The law will be implemented in August 2017.
The new law will divide art distribution into three major categories: art galleries, which will be subject to a registration system; art auctions, to a permit system; and other sales of artworks, to a reporting system.
Currently, art galleries or art auction houses can operate with only a business license, and without official registration or approval, which led to criticism that they lacked transparency and engaged in unfair practices in their art distribution process.
With the new law, however, art galleries will have to submit plans to prevent counterfeit artworks as well as a list of all of their affiliate artists. Auction firms will also have to provide counterfeit prevention measures, while possessing certain qualifications including at least 200 million won in capital, an official auctioneer, and an auction house.
Furthermore, artwork distributors will be obliged to maintain records for each of their artworks, and issue an official warranty when they’re sold. Failure to do so will also be result in fines and cancelled business licenses.
The law will implement stronger punishment for counterfeit crimes as well, by stipulating that these types of crimes be punishable by up to five years in prison or 50 million won in fines. The ministry will also consider the potential implementation of special judicial police specific to artwork fraud.
Meanwhile, the ministry is to establish a national body for artwork authentication, which will function as the official agency responsible for developing new authentication technology and professionals in related fields.
“The institute will be operated not as a government agency but as a public one, and will help improve Korea’s art authentication technology, as well as aiding with crimes, investigations, and trials related to counterfeit artwork,” said Jung. “It will be staffed by professional researchers and appraisers.”
The full details of the law are to be revealed in the first half of 2017.
New Zealand has a history of art crime which will be exposed in an intriguing new exhibition to open at Waikato Museum by the end of the month. The exhibition, An Empty Frame: Crimes of Art in New Zealand features 30 artworks and explores the different aspects of art crime; theft, vandalism and fraud in the form of forgery.
Guest curator and art historian Penelope Jackson says art crime is far more widespread than we know and New Zealand is no exception where art crime is criminally punishable and often motivated by money.
All artworks in the exhibition have at some stage been “victims” of art crime and each is accompanied by its own particular story.
An Empty Frame is named after the elegant gold frame, left behind after the 1902 painting, Psyche by Solomon J Solomon was stolen from a Christchurch gallery in 1942. The famous frame now belongs to the Christchurch Art Gallery collection and is featured in the exhibition. “Psyche is one of my favourite cases as it is full of intrigue. There is a sense of hope the exquisite gold frame will one day be reunited with the stolen painting, although it is highly improbable now”, says Ms Jackson.
One aspect of An Empty Frame intended to challenge visitors is the placement of a genuine artwork from the Museum’s collection alongside a fake.
Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham says it was surprisingly easy to arrange high quality reproductions of the originals for the purpose of the show. “It’s not illegal to produce a copy of a painting, but it is a crime to try to sell it as the original – it’s essentially fraud.”
Visit http://waikatomuseum.co.nz for more information.
Now in it’s third year, The Art Business Conference is a one-day conference held in central London, for art market professionals.
If you’re involved in buying, selling or caring for fine art or antiques – whether you are a gallery owner, manager, art advisor, auctioneer, private collector or professional advisor, this conference will explore the key issues affecting the international art market today.
Through presentations, Q&As, panel discussions, and workshops, industry experts will share advice and insights on many of the key factors in running a commercial art or antique business or collection – including the the latest updates in legislation.
Want a live demo of Tagsmart Certify? Join us at the Art Tech Pavilion to learn more about this completely unique approach to artwork security.
Tagsmart offers smart, secure solutions for the 21st century art world, designed for the creators, sellers and buyers of art. A new standard for authenticity, Tagsmart Certify tackles the issue of buyers’ confidence head on. Providing an unique solution for art authentication and enabling the creation of a complete artwork provenance history, our products can be used individually or collectively, from physical smart tags featuring the latest DNA and inorganic taggants, to uncopiable Certificates of Authenticity and Digital Certificates which become passports over time. Tagsmart Certify has already been endorsed by leading contemporary artists including Marc Quinn, Mat Collishaw, Gary Hume and Idris Khan.
Lawyers for Blue Art Limited filed an amended complaint Wednesday night against David Zwirner and his gallery, which Fabrizio Moretti says failed to deliver a work of art he bought for $2m. The new complaint comes after Zwirner’s motion to dismiss named the previously anonymous purchaser and called the lawsuit “a case of buyer’s remorse”. In response, Moretti’s recent court filings reveal the work at the heart of the case—Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden) (2013), from the gallery’s show that year. And while he previously asked for the original purchase price for the work plus fees, Moretti’s updated suit seeks $6m in total damages.
In the new filing, Moretti’s lawyers say Zwirner and the gallery played “a kind of ‘three card monte’ in which the numbered casts of the sculpture”—an edition of three, plus an artist’s proof—“were distributed to their buyers willy-nilly”.
On 24 June 2014, according to the complaint, Moretti made a purchase agreement and soon put down a deposit of $400,000 on edition 2 of 3, his lawyers say. By early 2015, the gallery told Moretti that the sculpture was nearly complete and the collector started paying off what he owed. In April 2015, the work was ready but instead of being delivered to Moretti, it was labelled as edition 3 of 3 and taken to the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s in May, where it carried an estimate of $1.5m to $2.5m—and failed to sell.
On 29 June 2015, the court papers say, Moretti paid the final $200,000 he owed and around that time, another sculpture was completed. This one, however, was labelled edition 1 of 3 and went to another buyer, who still owed the gallery $1.6m. Moretti, faced with a bad art market and a sculpture from a series that had now been unsold at auction, says he still had not received his piece by the time he filed his lawsuit on 4 August this year.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the editions that were made are not the same as the one shown at the Gazing Ball show at David Zwirner Gallery in May 2013, the complaint says. That is now classified as a “prototype” and the dimensions of the sculpture ready for collection by Moretti are different from the object he purchased, the collector says.
Moretti’s amended suit alleges that Zwirner’s dealings violate the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, updated in 1991 to “augment the laws protecting art purchasers from the slippery practices of some art dealers”, according to the court papers, and to outline the information that must be provided to the buyer of a sculpture. Moretti is seeking additional damages because Zwirner violated the law in the vagueness of the purchase agreement and in the editioning, the court documents state. The complaint also accuses the dealer and gallery of breach of contract and fraud, among other charges.
Jan and Chris Starckx purchased what they called The Portrait of a Child at an auction for just €450 back in the 1970s. However, over the years, they began to suspect that they were sat on something rather special. After various trials, which even took the pair to Miami to compare the picture to another genuine Kooning, Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould arrived at the couple’s Belgian home to deliver the good news.
“Well, what we have here is an advantage because we know the other painting went for €50,000,” Philip beamed. “I believe, in many ways, that your picture is superior. The artistic impact, the characterisation of the child, the condition is so good, and you have the name carved into the wet paint, and therefore think it’s worth excess of €50,000. I could see it making up to €100,000.”
However, despite buying the painting over four decades ago, they may not be entitled to own the portrait without being able to clear up who sold the picture to them and why.
Chris explained: “After Miami, we came back and I was contacted by the vendor. He told me the person who left painting died three years ago, and left a lot of money and his belongings to his son. This man, he managed to lose all of his money in a very short time and became homeless. At some point, he was asked to clear his house because he didn’t pay the rent, so he asked two friends to get rid of all his belongings and to sell them.”
Fiona chipped in: “This is really important; the man who owned the painting asked his friends to get rid of it for him? Did he write that down – was there any instructions or anything?”
“The sad fact is, you may not own this picture,” sighed Philip. “If the people who sold it to you did not have the right to sell it, you don’t own it.”
Two men were arrested in Folkestone after a copy of a Banksy artwork, which was itself the focus of a legal tussle after being ripped from a wall in the Kent town and shipped to the US, was allegedly stolen.
The stencilled work by local street artist Robsci was based on Art Buff, a 2014 work by Banksy which was part of the Folkestone Triennial.
Officers on patrol spotted two men apparently trying to steal the new work, which had been installed the previous day on a chipboard awning boarding up the garden of a derelict building, west of the town’s centre. Joshua Tyrell has been charged with drink driving. He was arrested in the early hours of Sunday, and has been bailed to appear in court on 21 September. A 29-year-old man from Ashford arrested on suspicion of theft was released without charge.
The copy, the apparent target of the bungled raid, was photographed at the scene hours after the incident.
Another day in court, another day of the prosecution exposing what it says are lies, lies, lies, by Yang Yin to cover up his crime of cheating an old widow of her millions of dollars. In the last nine days of the trial, the prosecution has introduced what seemed at times to be an endless stream of evidence, and testimony, portraying the 42-year-old Chinese national as an unrepentant liar who would fib his way out of anything.
Did it work? Maybe. It was all too much for Yang, who nearly broke down yesterday and actually agreed with the prosecution, when asked repeatedly if he was someone who was “willing to lie when it is suitable and convenient for [him]”.
Today, he told the court he was “very stressed” with the proceedings. When asked by the judge if he felt unwell, he replied: “physically and emotionally a little bit”. He looked tired and was rocking slightly on the stand. “I would like to request, your honour, I would like to give up giving testimony. My lawyer explained to me today. Today I would like to tell your honour about how I feel so please allow me to,” he told the judge through an interpreter.
Yang is being accused of two charges of criminal breach of trust involving a total of US$1.1 million he allegedly misappropriated from elderly widow, Chung Khin Chun.
Collector Myron Kaplan paid US$57,500 for Abstraction #6 by Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) at Sotheby’s on November 20, 1997. The work was estimated at US$15,000/20,000, and the provenance in the catalogue noted that it was “acquired directly from the artist.”
In May 2016—almost 20 years after he bought it—Kaplan received a letter from the General Services Administration (GSA) stating that the painting was produced under the New Deal and remains the property of the U.S. government. The letter noted, “the last possessor of the painting [indicated] that the painting was retrieved approximately 50 years ago from the Port Richmond High School in Staten Island. The painting was discarded due to a renovation of the school building and recovered by their [sic] relation, a school staff member.”
Reinhardt was involved with the federal art program administered by the Works Progress Administration. He worked in the Easel Division of the Federal Art Project. The GSA claims that all works created under the various New Deal art projects are government property, and when the works are found, the GSA demands their return.
Kaplan’s attorney, Debra A. Mayer, contacted Sotheby’s and the GSA in an attempt to confirm the painting’s provenance from before the auction. Sotheby’s refused to provide any information about the consignor without a subpoena; the GSA also refused to provide Mayer with any information, she states in court papers. The GSA is demanding immediate possession and has threatened to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution, Mayer claims.
Mayer, on behalf of Kaplan, has filed a motion in court seeking a subpoena to compel Sotheby’s to provide complete records of the consignment in 1997 and all documents provided by Sotheby’s to the GSA “pursuant to its December 2015 subpoena to Sotheby’s concerning this matter.”
The Dutch art detective Arthur Brand announced on Twitter Wednesday, 27 July, the recovery of two works stolen from a private museum in the Netherlands in 2009: Salvador Dalí’s gouache Adolescence (1941) and Tamara de Lempicka’s oil painting La Musicienne (1929), which was shown in Madonna’s music video for Vogue (1990). Both works are said to be in good condition.
The pieces were brazenly stolen during opening hours on 1 May 2009 from the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, which was located in the village of Spanbroek in the North Holland province and closed in 2011. Several masked robbers threatened staff and visitors at gunpoint and made off with their loot in a matter of minutes.
Brand told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that the works were in the possession of a criminal gang, who “did not want to find themselves guilty of the destruction or resale of works of art” and contacted him through an intermediary. Brand adds that he has handed the works over to a Scotland Yard detective who is in touch with the rightful owners, who wish to remain anonymous.
Two men hid out in a Melbourne studio, painting exact replicas of Brett Whiteley’s paintings and then sold them for millions of pounds. Art restorer Mohamed Aman Siddique and dealer Peter Gant were found guilty in May on charges of obtaining and attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception over the fakes.
Peter Gant at the Supreme Court in Melbourne, during the Whiteley fake art court case (Stuart McEvoy for The Australian)
Barristers said at a pre-sentence hearing that Gant would never work in the industry again because of extra punishment he suffered due to publicity around the trial. Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham fell victim to the art fraud and bought a fake of Whiteley’s Big Blue Lavender Bay painting, which he thought was an original, for £1.5 million. The men also replicated Orange Lavender Bay and sold it for £600,000 and they were gearing up to sell a third, Through the Window, for almost £500,000.
The pair face the possibility of a maximum ten year prison sentence and have flagged their plans to appeal.
The hearing continues.