Art, Cinema and Forgery
I found no joy in appearing as a discussion panelist compelled to consider the issue of art forgery at the SAW Gallery’s “F is For Fake” exhibition that opened in Ottawa on June 7 2014. Under the discussion microscope was the question of our society’s complacency with regard to art forgery and interestingly the issue of censorship. The exhibition is ongoing until August 16th 2014. I highly recommend taking it in. Beyond notorious purported Morrisseau’s are a number of fascinating exhibits including Banksy’s $10 pound counterfeit notes, now worth $200 pounds and rising. That guy is one cool artist!
There were two other panelists who appeared with me.
John Boyle-Singfield had inferior copies made of the works of a four-artist group that exhibited at a gallery in Chicoutimi, Quebec, just before he did. He took photos of the artwork displayed and sent the pics to an online China-based business that employed factory artists to reproduce the works. John’s show was hung yet never opened after complaints by the four artists derailed it. The issue of censorship made it a notable news story in Quebec.
Mark Forgy was also a panelist. I find it interesting that his name is pronounced with a hard G as in ‘fog’ rather than a soft G as in ‘forgery’. Mark was an artistic apprentice in the 1960s to the notable forger, Elmyr de Hory, who committed suicide in 1976, several years after Orson Welles screened the cult-classic documentary film about him entitled “F for Fake”. Hory made fools of the experts.
Thus we get to the crux of this cool exhibition. Is forgery driven by revenge, belligerence and protest against the elite?… or is it really a male-dominated serious black-market business offering takers fake inclusion into an exclusive club? Is art fraud a crime nobody wants to know about? A joke on the rich by the not so rich?
Did our lively discussion moderated by assistant curator Kathleen Nicholls lead to any conclusions? Yes, the agreed upon fact that Jason St-Laurent is one courageous charismatic cutting-edge curator.
How impressive is the exhibition? Very! The fraud distorting the wonderful artistic legacy of Norval Morrisseau gets overdue exposure from the Canadian arts community in this kickass art show.
The notorious Hatfield v Sherway purported Morrisseau painting is on display until August 16th along with two other abominations sold to principal Morrisseau art dealer, Bryant Ross, of Coghlan art. A decade or more ago Bryant showed the two canvases to Norval who confirmed that they were fakes. Later, in a historic video, Bryant painted a large red X and the word FAKE over one of them.
Censorship has been an ongoing issue when it comes to the issue of Morrisseau fakes. Those who speak up are subject to character assassination and those who show images of fakes are subject to lawsuits.
Apparently bootlegging anything is serious business.
I wish the SAW Gallery and their lawyers well. If there’s anything I can do to assist; just ask. I’ve had plenty of practice.