Saturday, February 16, 2008

Forgeries of Ingenuous Australian Art

A recent court case here caught my attention. For reasons I'll explain.

Rover Thomas (c1925-1998)

Rover Thomas - Authentic Painting - 'Cyclone Tracy' 1991 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

It involved the jailing of Ivan (67) and Pamela Liberto (65) for forging works by indigenous Australian artists, a present boom investment market.

'Earth's Creation' (1995) by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996) set a record for indigenous painting in 2007 by achieving the sale price of $1,056,000.

Earth's Creation (1995) Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996)

The works that were the subject of the court case were by Rover Thomas.

Robyn Sloggett gave expert testimony that, in the desert where such works had been produced, sand typically blew over and adhered onto the surface of canvases. "We have (genuine) works by Rover Thomas where sand has been picked up in the paint. But you expect it to be blown on to the surface".

Sloggett said that forgers added sand into the paint to simulate this. A difference that was detectable.

Rover Thomas 'Cross Roads' - Forged Painting

Qhat is curious in so many of these cases of faking is that expects, often of high standing in the art community, initially determine vehemently that a particular work is genuine ... only to mumblingly and fidgittingly recant. The head of Sotheby's Aboriginal Art, Tim Klingender, declared 'Cross Roads' to be genuine but changed his view when he noticed a larger 'version' on offer in 2004 in a Christie's Modern Aboriginal Art catalog.

Having watched a bit of (okay, a lot of) 'Crime Investigators' lately on TV - 'addiction' would not be too strong a word - I have become intrigued by the science that facilitates detection of crimes. From the ubiquitous luminol test for determining the presence of blood, through various kinds of xxx-scopy for identifying elements/substances/etc in/on just about anything, to the latest techniques for extracting DNA from all things.

So when this nice bit of detective work in relation to forgeries came my way, well I was googling like crazy to get the whole unabridged picture. Pun, yep!


  1. Disgusting that someone would try to forge and cheat the artist out of his money.
    Having said that, however, I REALLY don't see how anyone could pay $1 million for a piece of art that just hangs on a wall!
    So many other good things you can do for your fellow man with that money!

  2. hey greg. the value of things is very strange. as we all know cartels controls the inflated price of diamonds in the world today. after all they are only little bits of 'glass'. and it's a supply and demand thing too - if we didn't demand - no value!