- From hard sell to hard cell: art fraudster Ron Coles jailed
- Paintings ‘fake’, Brett Whiteley’s widow tells art fraud case
- The barrister, the dealer and the fraudulent painting
Most people have read the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen in which two weavers promise an Emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. No one dares to say he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, ‘But he isn’t wearing anything at all!’
My inspiration for writing Killing Sunday came from reading newspaper articles on Peter Gant, Ronald Coles and art crime in Australia.
A Sydney court was told last year that up to 30 per cent of art offered for sale in Australia could be forgeries, but Stephen Nall, art consultant and lawyer says he believes the figure is probably about 10 per cent.
Nall says the art market should be reformed, with laws that create obligations on art market professionals and establish a database of fakes and stolen works. “Since 2010 there has been a surge in art crime in Australia,” he says. “Art fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and organised crimes are at the heart of such criminal activity that has largely been maintained and supported by a complicit secondary art market for over 40 years.”
Nall concludes that people involved in the buying and selling of art appear “too embarrassed” to reform the art market.
‘The emperor’s new clothes are the fragile nature of the secondary market and the apparent lack of expertise and rigour in the art authentication process,’ Nall says. “Everyone, collector and expert alike are mostly too embarrassed to admit their gullibility or do anything to fix the problem in case they look foolish. This is a national shame!”
Stephen Nall Photo: Edwina Pickles
Nall will point to the failure of some auction houses and dealers to impound suspected fake artworks and reveal the identity of sellers in his speech, The Emperor’s New Clothes: A Tale of Art Fraud, Organised Crime, and Collective Shame, to be delivered at the Art Game symposium at the University of Western Sydney on 12 June.
Nall says in a draft of his speech that maintaining secrecy around art sales appears to take precedence over the protection of artists, buyers and the public interest – a lack of transparency criticised by the courts.
He says the secondary market has been at “the forefront of the trade in fake artworks”, pointing to the conviction of fraudster Ronald Coles, fake paintings sold by Melbourne dealer Peter Gant and court action by barrister Louise McBride against Christie’s and art consultant Vivienne Sharpe.
A stepson of artist Robert Dickerson, Nall ran the Dickerson Gallery in Melbourne and gave evidence in a court case against Gant that led to a judge ordering the destruction of fake paintings.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione will join art crime experts, including the manager of the FBI’s Art Theft Program Dr Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, at the one-day symposium at UWS’s Bankstown campus on June 12.
Organiser Dr Pamela James said police in Australia and most other countries were not equipped to deal with art crimes.
“They are – they will admit – consumed with terrorism, theft, drugs.
“Even if they do bring successful investigations to court, there are problems with the law then to ensure prosecution,” James says.
Source: SMH 5/6/15