Thursday, August 05, 2010

When good copycats turn bad

Are there a few fake McCahons out there? Has anyone knocked up a bogus Cotton or put a dodgy Hammond out into the market? Over the years there have been rumblings about works that ‘don’t seem right.’ Just last year art dealer John Gow went public, convinced a McCahon Waterfall painting was suspect and after a fuss the work was withdrawn from auction. That incident aside, genuine fakes, or ones that are brought to account, are fairly rare.

Not so much in Australia where a number of wrong works have been discovered recently and some of them even destroyed after a court order. The preferred artist for copycatting appears to be Brett Whiteley which is not surprising given his prices at auction. The latest it’s-a-fake accusation has been laid at the door of Orange Lavender Bay which was sold for $1.3 million to a …wait for it ….a Sydney car dealer. It gets better. The guy who sold it to him was named Playfoot and he, in turn, got it from a Mr. Gant who was the bloke who sold the three fake drawings (by Charles Blackman and Robert Dickerson) that were bonfired. Like most suspect works, Orange Lavender Bay looks like a lesser version of another original Whiteley painting. It has been pronounced a fake by the Whiteley estate and failed forensic testing.

Images: Top Brett Whiteley Big Orange (Sunset), 1974. Bottom, not Brett Whiteley Orange Lavender Bay