"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Greenhalgh Gang - how Sotheby's was fooled

In the '60's before ennoblement Lord Patel would spend an idle lunch hour at the weekly sales of a Mr Isaacs in a basement next to Yate's Garden shop on Mosley Street in Manchester - the Peace Gardens now occupy the spot.

A hotch potch of furniture, pottery, bicycles and paintings would pass through and a shifting crowd of clerks, typists, ne'er do wells would watch, infrequently bid and sometimes buy.

Always there lurked a small band of shifty looking men, whose wardrobe would these days have been selected from Oxfam.

Sexond hand clothes were respectable then. So a well turned but elderly Lobb shoe, or a slightly misshapen Crombie overcoat would be seen. This crew would bid by the barely discernible tremble of a nicotine stained finger, the further decline of a continually dependent eyelid. A secret and secretive code which a rubicund and jolly Mr Issac's would faultlessly decipher.

At the little cubby hole where you paid, a cheerfully chubby lady with a brisk mittel european accent would take the money and issue handwritten receipts as cash (often in large sums) from packets of withered currency from various pockets and caches from within their layered clothes.

A cab would be called. Being carless in Manchester was no sign of poverty.The assembled purchases loaded and "Mr Robinson" or "Mr Jones" would accompany them.

I would wonder as a painting by George Morland, an early English artist , at that time called a primitive because he would sell his pictures in pubs for a meal or ale. A brash thing of solid ochres and black by William Palmer (that found it's way into the collection of Joe Fitton local textile magnate..eventually) and most oddly snowscapes with log cabins and laden ponies by Cornelius Kreighof a Dutchman born in Quebec.. whose painting, a little research showed at the time on sale in Ottawa for tens of thousands of loonies. (see UPDATE *****)

A murmer here, a whisper, a careful scrutiny of the back of many paintings.. this was of course (we could later confirm) an outlet for the famed forger Tom Keating who later confessed to (a claimed) 2,000 forgeries including Boucher, Degas, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Modigliani, Rembrandt, Renoir and Kees van Dongen.Arrested in 1977 he wrote a book The Fake's Progress: The Tom Keating Story, London: Hutchinson and Co., 1977

His forgeries are now much collected, the Sygu Museum in Wales has an especially large collection of his pastiches.

Therefore one has to admire the Bolton based Greenhalgh Gang, forger and embittered artist Shaun Greenhalgh, 47, his dad George, 84, and Olive, 83. These council house living desperadoes from deepest Bolton Scotland Yard claim, presented some 120 fakes valued at $20 million to museums and auction houses over 2 decades . Shaun copped a 4 stretch last month his mom a suspended year and dad is awaiting sentence.

Naturally there is a wonderful sense of schadenfreude when you discover that mom (AKA Mrs. Roscoe, her maiden name) managed to get Sotheby's to sell a "Gauguin" ceramic sculpture of a "Faun" - "Mrs. Roscoe" claimed to be a descendant of Roderick O’Conor, an artist who was a friend of Gauguin and who she said had bought the work from a Paris gallery, Nunes and Fiquet, in 1917. She even gave Sotheby’s what appeared to be a copy of the bill of sale.

On the basis of this fraudulent story, Sotheby's catalog entry said “The Faun” (see pic)would be included in the catalogue raisonnĂ©, or authoritative list of known works, of Gauguin sculptures that was being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute in Paris. (The catalogue raisonnĂ© has not yet been published, but Sotheby’s said it had a letter dated Nov. 13, 1994, from Wildenstein confirming its inclusion.)

Anyway the faun was bought from Sotheby's in 1994 by a London dealer Mrs Howie for £20,700.(Approx US$40,000) where it was seen by Douglas Druick, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was having lunch at Ms. Howie’s London home.

As a result the Art Institute of Chicago bought (for an undisclosed sum) it.It is listed on their website still "The Faun, 1886 Unglazed stoneware with touches of gold gilding h. 47cm
The Art Institute of Chicago: Estate of Suzette Morton Davidson; Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment - it was also included in their Van Gogh and Gauguin exhibition in 2001/2.

At the time of acquisition "The Faun" was celebrated as one of the museum’s most important acquisitions in 20 years.

In a news release yesterday , the Art Institute said it was seeking compensation from Sotheby’s.

******UPDATE 25/12/07

In December 1983, 137 of his falsifications brought in £80.000. Sold a piece at a time, the highest hammers stroke from 1998 the work “Odalisque, in the manner of Matisse,” which went up reaching £6.700. A self-portrait was sold for £ 5.000, and in April 1999 “Two Horse Sleighs in Winter Landscape, after Cornelius Kries(g) hoff” brought in £6.600. It is a small painting the size of which is only 24 by 41 cm.

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(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish