- ‘So many wild twists and turns’: film explores alleged forgery of thousands of Norval Morrisseau works
(Article Excerpt) – A new documentary explores what the filmmaker says could be the largest art fraud scam in Canadian history — a scam that allegedly has ties to Thunder Bay.
Leah Sandals (May 30th, 2018) Canadian Art
(Article Excerpt) – “There is evidence of the existence of a forgery ring in Morrisseau’s hometown of Thunder Bay, headed by a local criminal,” Justice Edward M. Morgan wrote in May 24, 2018. He added: “I do not doubt [its] existence and the circulation of fraudulent paintings produced there.”
(Subscription required – April 22, 2018) The Globe and Mail
(Article Excerpt) – For example, one collector of the disputed paintings boasts that if he only had six months to live he would kill an opposing witness –a former protégé of Morrisseau who convincingly argues the paintings can’t be the artist’s handiwork because the pigments contain too much white.
Norman Wilner (April 20, 2019) NOW magazine
(Article Excerpt) – It turns out that there are plenty of fake Morrisseaus out there, despite the statement from one especially defensive dealer that gives Kastner’s doc its title.
Shari Narine (May 30th, 2018) Windspeaker
(Article Excerpt) – It’s the third time a Morrisseau painting has been challenged in court as a forgery. In 2011, in Otvanik v. Sinclair, the court preferred the evidence of the expert who claimed Jesuit Priest Bringing Word was a forgery. In 2013, the court found that the Wheel of Life, purchased by Margaret Hatfield was “on the balance of probabilities … an original Norval Morrisseau.”
Shari Narine (May 25th, 2018) Windspeaker
(Article Excerpt) – “It’s my client’s view and my view that what is damaging, what is corrosive to (Morrisseau’s) legacy is if there are forgeries being made and being hawked as though they are authentic, that to us is the greatest offence to his legacy,” said Sommer.
Gary Rinne (Jun 5, 2018) Thunder Bay Newswatch
(Article Excerpt) – “Counsel for Hearn went to considerable effort in gathering evidence and calling witnesses to establish that a group of fraudsters worked for a number of years in northwest Ontario, and that as a consequence of their prolific activities a substantial number of Morrisseau forgeries exist,”
Graeme Hamilton (May 25, 2018) National Post
(Article Excerpt) – ““I do not doubt the existence of a Thunder Bay-area fraud ring and the circulation of fraudulent paintings produced there,” Morgan writes. “However I cannot impugn the authenticity of Spirit Energy Of Mother Earth simply because it was produced in a ‘high crime area,’ as it were.””
Joe Costaldo (May 25, 2018) Macleans Magazine
(Article Excerpt) – “The court also heard evidence from multiple witnesses about a fraud ring in Thunder Bay, Ont., run by a man named Gary Lamont, a friend of Morrisseau’s. Witnesses said Lamont sold hundreds of fake paintings, and his operation allegedly involved two of Morrisseau’s own family members.”
(Tuesday, April 17, 2018) The National Post
(Article Excerpt) – “We have been friends for years, our families have stayed with each other and I believed we were close,” White wrote to Goring after his visit. “That is why I have tried to believe in you and refused to accept that you could steal from me and create a story of lies.”
(Monday, April 15, 2018) Maclean’s Magazine
(Article Excerpt) – The man introduced himself as David Voss and said the paintings came from a collector in northwestern Ontario, who had hundreds stored in a shed. Potter sold them, and Voss supplied many more over the years. By the time he shut down in 2009, he had sold up to 2,000 black dry brush paintings from Voss for anywhere between $800 to $35,000 each. He never asked too many questions. “I guess I never really cared,” he says, adding, “I’ve never sold a bogus painting in my life.”
(September 29 2017) Radio Canada International
(Sunday, May 7th, 2017) Windspeaker News
(Article Excerpt) – “The allegation that Mr. McLeod’s involved in a fraud ring is simply preposterous,” said Shiller in the same article. “They will never produce evidence that Mr. McLeod was involved in a fraud ring, particularly where they name the people who were involved in the fraud and Mr. McLeod doesn’t know any of them, has never spoken to any of them and has had no business relationship with any of them at all.”
(October 31, 2014) Globe & Mail
(Article Excerpt) – In his statement of claim, McDermott said “the likely source” of his alleged fakes – two works from the 1970s and one from the 1960s, for which Toronto’s Maslak McLeod Gallery was paid a total of $15,500 in cash – was “a fraud ring operating out of Thunder Bay [and] run by an individual by the name of Gary Lamont who at various times has employed various forgers, including local artists Benjamin Morrisseau [son of Barney Morrisseau, a brother of Norval Morrisseau] and Timothy Tait [a First Nations artist].” The claim went on to allege that the “large numbers of fake … Morrisseau paintings” are then sold on the Web, by phone and in person to “various collectors, resellers, dealers and auction houses for resale.”
(June 2, 2014) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – There are works “by” Van Gogh and Picasso, created by Chinese villagers in a massive, ongoing industry. There’s a faux-Morrisseau that is marked by a large, red X and the word “fake.” There’s a Modigliani by a Chilean woman famous for her mimicry.
(Feb 7, 2014) CTV News
(Article Excerpt) “I consider it egregious what they’ve done to him (Morrisseau), “Sinclair told CTV’s Canada AM Friday Morning. “It’s similar to someone actually stealing your identity. And the imagery is really not up to par, it’s not what one would consider a true forgery.” Sinclair has set up Morrisseau.com, a website set that helps art collectors differentiate between fake Morrisseau’s and the real thing. Sinclair says one telltale sign of a Morrisseau forgery is a signature in black paint on the back of a painting. “You’ll never find anything from the historical records or from the museums that have this,” said Sinclair, holding up what he says is a Morrisseau forgery which features the signature. “These all appeared after
(Feb 03, 2014) CBC NEWS
(Article Excerpt) – As for the fraud ring accusation, Shiller said forgeries are always possible with any renowned artist, but he doubted a mass-production ring existed. Shiller added that even if a fraud ring did exist, his client certainly wasn’t involved. “The allegation that Mr. McLeod’s involved in a fraud ring is simply preposterous,” he said. “They will never produce evidence that Mr. McLeod was involved in a fraud ring, particularly where they name the people who were involved in the fraud and Mr. McLeod doesn’t know any of them, has never spoken to any of them and has had no business relationship with any of them at all.”
- Barenaked Ladies’ keyboardist suing in what may be the biggest art forgery case in Canadian history.
(Feb 03, 2014) National Post / Financial Post
(Article Excerpt) Rumours of a high number of fake Morrisseau painting have been circling around since well before his death in 2007, most notably on Morrisseau.com, a website operated by Morrisseau protégé Ritchie “Stardreamer” Sinclair that retains a detailed catalogue of “authentic” and “forged” Morrisseau art. In Mr. Morriseau’s final years, he attempted to out suspected forgeries by signing affidavits and formed the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society to compile an authentic catalogue of his works.
(October 25, 2013) Globe & Mail
(Article Excerpt) – Famed Canadian tenor John McDermott is alleging that in 2003 he was sold three paintings attributed to Norval Morrisseau that he now believes are “fakes and imitations” produced by “a fraud ring operating out of Thunder Bay,” with a nephew of the legendary Ojibwa artist named as one of the “various forgers.”
(May 11, 2013) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – The appeal also alleges the small-claims court judge erred by “unreasonably and incorrectly relying in the decision upon misapprehended facts, statements of fact that do not form a part of the evidence, unsupported non-expert hearsay evidence, and documents w hich w ere never disclosed or made evidence …” The appeal lists several examples, including the judge’s statement that Morrisseau had “Alzheimer’s disease.”
(Apr 8 2013) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – “My opinion, and that of my client, based upon what I have seen, is that there is a huge problem with the existence of fakes, and people should be particularly cautious when purchasing the work of Norval Morrisseau, and examine each painting on a case-by-case basis, and not rely unduly on a single statement about a single painting made by a single small-claims courts judge.” … Sommer says that in his opinion, the judgment contains errors of fact and law. For example, the judge noted that Morrisseau suffered from Alzheimer’s, he said….Morrisseau in his later years suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The distinction may be important, because Morrisseau’s mental state around the time Hatfield bought her painting was a key issue in the trial….The judge also ruled, in an apparent error, that “the court finds as a fact that the painted black dry brush signature on the back of the painting Wheel of Life is that of Wilfred Morrisseau.”
(Apr 3 2013) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – Don Robinson, a Toronto art gallery owner who was Morrisseau’s principal agent for 19 years, testified that the artist never signed the back of his paintings in black paint. All of the paintings sold at the auctions were fake, Robinson testified. He also suggested that Morrisseau’s own estranged family was involved in the production of fraudulent paintings. …It’s the first court ruling on the authenticity of a painting by Morrisseau, as far as he is aware, says Brian Shiller, the lawyer for Artworld of Sherway, the defendant in the case. “Hopefully now is a great time for Canadians to discover, or rediscover, Morrisseau,” he said. “Because there are a number of (similar) paintings out there, and they can probably be bought for very good value.” …. That should make it easier for galleries across Canada to sell similar paintings that came from the southern Ontario auctions, confident they are genuine Morrisseaus, said Shiller.
(Apr 2 2013) Globe & Mail
(Article Excerpt) – Canadian art scene observers who have been trying to prove that the market for Norval Morrisseau paintings has been awash in fakes and forgeries for years have been dealt a major setback in a decision from the Ontario Small Claims Court. Deputy Judge Paul Martial of Toronto ruled on Tuesday that a Morrisseau canvas titled Wheel of Life that a Sarnia schoolteacher bought in 2005 and came to believe was bogus is “on the balance of probabilities … an original Norval Morrisseau”…. Disputes over the authenticity of Morrisseau paintings have been fought by collectors, auctioneers, dealers and scholars, as well as representatives and relatives of the artist – and even Mr. Morrisseau himself.
(Nov 10 2012) Star Phoenix (Saskatoon)
(Article Excerpt) – Supposedly there are thousands of fakes in circulation falsely attributed to the acclaimed Canadian aboriginal artist. So prevalent are Morrisseau fakes that, before his death in 2007, he established a trust to root out and discredit them. In the last years of his life he tangled often with commercial galleries selling what he claimed were forgeries.
(Nov 5 2012) National Post
(Article Excerpt) – Hearn said he began to question the provenance of his painting in 2010, when he was a “celebrity guest curator” of a show at the Art Gallery of Ontario that included Spirit Energy of Mother Earth and other pieces from his private collection. According to the statement of claim,about a week after the show opened, the gallery removed Spirit Energy from the exhibit after the AGO’s head curator and “numerous individuals” “suggested that the painting was most likely a fake.”
(Nov 3 3012) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – Art historian Phillips said that while she had no comment on the painting at the centre of this lawsuit, in general anyone considering buying a Morrisseau artwork should be cautious. “There’s just no question that there are a lot of fakes in circulation. People should be very careful about buying his work.” Phillips is part of a Heritage Society of experts authorized by Morrisseau in 2005 to produce a scholarly catalogue of authentic works.
(June 4 2012) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – One believes that the Morrisseau market, particularly since the mid-1990s, has been severely compromised by hundreds, even thousands of fakes – “the greatest fraud in Canadian art history,” to quote the Feb. 23 court testimony of Donald Robinson whose Toronto gallery, Kinsman Robinson, served as Morrisseau’s primary dealer from 1989 through 2007.
(January 22 2009) Ottawa Citizen
(Article Excerpt) – So, where are the alleged fakes coming from? Various prominent figures in the Morrisseau art market accuse each other of involvement in the production of forgeries. Then, there are the seemingly wild accusations that organized crime is churning out Morrisseau fakes from “factories” in Thunder Bay, that these “artists” are being paid in illegal drugs and that money-laundering is involved.
- Former Morrisseau lawyer Aaron Milrad Interview
(2009) CBC radio
(Interview Excerpt) – I get angry when I talk about it. There appears to be an organized group of criminals out there. Dealers and collectors and artists and even some auction houses, who are creating forgeries of Norval’s work. Not unlike creating counterfeit money. In this case it goes beyond that in that it effects the reputation of the artist. These works are secondary type art. They are really not very good. They are often easy to spot. We are working on that right now with chemical analysis and with the involvement of the authorities and so on. They are literally skimming off hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, of the Morrisseau market and tainting it and polluting it with these awful works that are coming into the marketplace and being sold to unsuspecting and untrained buyers.
(2007) Toronto Sun
(Article Excerpt) – “A good swift kick,” Norval Morrisseau says as best he can through the grip of Parkinson’s. Morrisseau, 76, aka Copper Thunderbird, aka Shaman Artist, wants what’s coming to him. He wants his money. He wants his reputation back. He wants to send the frauds and fakers packing. The “bad guys.”
(December 18 2006) Press Release
(Release Excerpt) The NMHS is aware that there are many works available for sale to the public that are falsely attributed to Norval Morrisseau. When buying a work of art, ask the art dealer or art gallery about the origin and source of the work. Did it come from the artist directly, or from some other source? Inquiries about the work’s provenance or history are advisable, as it is to become familiar with the artist’s work and pricing in other galleries, auctions and exhibitions. Norval Morrisseau has asked the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society (NMHS) to work with him to identify authentic Norval Morrisseau works. His desire is to protect his reputation because his work is being forged and sold on the open market. At his request, the NMHS was incorporated in November 2005 as a non-profit corporation under the Canada Corporations Act..”
(March 28 2005) The Globe & Mail
(Article Excerpt) – But how many of them are real Morrisseaus? A fierce brawl has broken out in part over just that question, with charges related to forgeries, market manipulation and issues of authentication being hurled back and forth across the country. Morrisseau claims forgeries of his work have been “a problem for a long time.” But it’s in the last three years that disputes over what is or is not a Morrisseau have become especially intense — so much so that a Toronto auctioneer who once sold Morrisseaus recently warned that the wariness those disputes are sowing “could kill the entire market.”
(May 2001) National Post
(Article Excerpt) – Celebrated native Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau has identified at least 23 paintings sold recently at auction as forgeries, touching off an investigation that could lead to hundreds of phony paintings attributed to him.