Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Morrisseau painting not a fake, Toronto dealer says"; writing by Murray Whyte (The Toronto Star)

~ Revised on February 23rd, 2014


The statement of defence refutes lawsuit filed by Barenaked Lady Kevin Hearn

"Spirit Energy of Mother Earth",  © 1974 Norval Morrisseau
~ Click on image to view FRONT & the inscription on canvas VERSO

Provenance: Purchased by an anonymous individual in Pickering, Ontario; sold to Mr. Kevin Hearn by Mr. Joseph McLeod of Maslak McLeod Gallery (Toronto, Ontario) & exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on June 11th, 2010 (click HERE)

A painting that is alleged to be by late artist Norval Morrisseau is at the centre of a lawsuit by Kevin Hearn of the Barenaked Ladies.


Written by: Visual arts, Published on 04-FEB-2014          
A painting contested as a fraudulent work by iconic Canadian First Nations artist Norval Morrisseau is authentic, a Toronto art dealer says.

The contention is in a statement of defence filed Friday in Ontario Superior Court by Brian Shiller, the lawyer for Joseph McLeod of Toronto’s Maslak McLeod Gallery, in response to a lawsuit by Kevin Hearn of Canadian pop band Barenaked Ladies.

In his suit filed in October 2013, Hearn alleges that the gallery represented Spirit Energy of Mother Earth as an authentic 1974 piece by the artist while knowing “at all material times” that it was a fake.

Hearn’s suit seeks more than $90,000 in damages. He paid $20,000 for the painting in 2005. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Shiller’s statement of defence marks the latest entry in a long, convoluted history over production and authenticity by the famed Ojibwa artist, who died in 2007.

Morrisseau, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease over his final years, struggled with substance abuse throughout his life, at times living on the street and trading paintings and drawings for paltry sums he would then use to buy alcohol. As a result, the history and authenticity of the many thousands of works he’s said to have produced are routinely subject to allegations of fraud.

Hearn’s suit follows a similar claim last year from Canadian tenor John McDermott, whose October statement of claim says that the three paintings he purchased in 2003, allegedly by Morrisseau, are in fact forgeries.

In the statement of claim, McDermott alleges that the works were the product of “a fraud ring operating out of Thunder Bay” and names the painter’s nephew Benjamin Morrisseau as being among the “various forgers.” The Thunder Bay Art Gallery is seen as the leading authority on Morrisseau’s works, with more than 90 pieces in its collection. Major museums like the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada count numerous Morrisseaus in their holdings as well.

Thunder Bay Police investigated allegations of Morrisseau forgeries in 2000, resulting in no charges. The case was revived in 2010 but hit a similar dead end, concluding it was “virtually impossible to verify the origin of the paintings,” according to a statement by police spokesman Chris Adams.

Given the hazy provenance of so much of the work, allegations of Morrisseau frauds are almost commonplace. Last April, a Sarnia schoolteacher sued another Toronto gallery, Artworld of Sherway, for selling what she believed to be another Morrisseau fake. Her claim was overturned in court.

Further muddying the waters was Morrisseau himself. In 2001, the artist was living in Vancouver with Parkinson’s. Despite his infirmity, he identified 23 paintings sold through Kahn Country Auctions in Pickering as forgeries. Morrisseau did so, apparently, by scrutinizing colour photocopies of the paintings, sent to him by his Toronto dealer at the time, Donald Robinson. He returned a signed statement denouncing the works as fakes.

To that point, Kahn had sold more than 800 paintings attributed to Morrisseau. Morrisseau’s signed testimony disowning the works in question put the authenticity of its entire catalogue in doubt.

A story in the National Post at the time underscored the difficulty of authenticating hundreds, if not thousands, of Morrisseau’s works. It quotes Michael Rogozinski, then president of Empire Auctions in Toronto, as saying: “Over the last 30 years, (Morrisseau) would be on reserves and paint paintings for food or liquor. . . . You give him acrylic paint and a canvas and tell him you’ll take him out for dinner and give him some liquor and he’ll paint. There are probably thousands of these things on reserves all over the country.”

The mythology of alleged forgeries of Morrisseau’s works looms large over Canadian art, driving some, like B.C. historian John Goldi, to refute their existence. His site, The Morrisseau Hoax Exposed, gamely tries to debunk the possibility that forgeries could exist at all. He claims to be able to present “proof that the story of the Morrisseau forgeries is, in fact, nothing, if not THE GREATEST CANADIAN HOAX OF ALL TIME (sic).” 

© Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. 1996-2014

Source: Toronto Star:
             "Morrisseau painting not a fake, Toronto dealer says"

BLOG MASTER'S COMMENT: The last paragraph of The Toronto Star's article, presented above, was suddenly, and shockingly, removed.

The person noted in the deleted paragraph, Mr. John Goldi, wants to know "why, by whose directive, and on what possible basis, the Star removed this completely innocuous paragraph, which has no libelous or defamatory content of any kind against anyone. And is merely a notice of another source of possible information." (; February 5th, 2014)

I am certain the readers of this platform, as Mr. Goldi, would also want to know the reasons behind The Toronto Star's decision to edit their article "Morrisseau painting not a fake, Toronto dealer says", as they state, "for legal reasons."  

Ref.: Mr. John Goldi's

~ More information to follow SOON...


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