“The HOAX of Provenance – Part 2” has been expanded into an 80 page special report which, because of a number of developing stories, has been delayed to encompass new information. It will be published shortly.
“Chain of Title” – Provenance is the life history of an object, written down, noting the succession of owners through whose hands it has passed. An exhaustive, accurate, written documentary record of the sequential house, boat, or car ownership like this, is known as “chain of title.”
“Provenance” – In the fine art world “provenance” is claimed to be the names and dates of all the owners in turn, who owned a painting, since it left the artist’s hands. Thereby ensuring – it is claimed – no faker, forger, or fixer got in between, somewhere, so undermining the work’s value as an untarnished original creation by the artist.
“Guarantee of Provenance” – Kinsman Robinson Galleries claims it is the only art gallery which can guarantee the provenance of every Morrisseau it has ever sold, being able to prove, and guarantee to their clients, an unbroken chain of title right back to the artist. How good do you think is such a claim?
“Promise of Provenance” – On Jan. 26, 2000 Donald Robinson was the under bidder on “Shaman Envelopes Soma 1976,” at Randy Potter Auctions where he told me personally, “Oh it’s real alright. Trust me! I’m the guy who wrote the book on Morrisseau.” Claiming he was the world’s top Morrisseau expert, his exclusive dealer, after some fifteen years experience assessing and handling his art.
A year later the “Trust me guy” totally reversed himself, saying Morrisseau never signed the backs of paintings like SOMA, that all such paintings were fakes – some 4,000 of them. (In 2013, Robinson’s claim notwithstanding, SOMA became the first Morrisseau painting in history to be accorded “beyond DNA” authenticity, of 100% by a Canadian forensic scientist. See below)
So what’s a “promise of provenance” worth from a so-called “world’s top expert” when he totally reverses himself on authentication and validation, and does it repeatedly. How much trust can you place in paintings he sells you? By my count Robinson has made 363 specific fallacious authentications, on which he has totally reversed himself as the mood apparently takes him. This is the Guinness Book of World Records for utterly wrong calls by a so-called fine art expert in history, a full 362 more wrong calls than the previous record holder, the Netherlands’ famed Vermeer scholar Abraham Bredius with one (1) bad call.
“Myth of Provenance” – Common sense alone, tells you, 99 times out of 100, the “guarantee of provenance” is too preposterous a possibility to even pretend to have any credibility with regard to the paternity of the overwhelming number of historical memorabilia, any fine art sculptures, or paintings. And everyone in the art world knows what a virtual total impossibility this is to document.
A Curator’s Confession – As the longtime acquisitions curator and director of research for the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum, for which I acquired some 4,500 fine art works and historical memorabilia items, I can certify that of all these items – most of which are 100 years old or more – there is no “provenance” that came at all, of any kind, not by documentation, nor by word of mouth, with 99.9% of them. They had to be authenticated by researching each one individually, with “on board” DNA, and by cross-referencing their credibility with other verified standards.
Nor did any of them come with the ultimate fine art ludicracy, the so-called “chain of title,” which Jonathan Sommer – displaying his utter lack of knowledge of fine art and antiques – so farcically tried to apply to Morrisseau art in his losing court presentations before Judges Martial and Sanderson.
“Fuck off!” with your Provenance – “Provenance is a laugh, the fact that it came from so and so, and so and so gave it to the prince of so and so. Fuck off! That can all be faked up. Same thing with iconography. All of that stuff is superfluous and of no importance.” (Thomas P Hoving quoted, The Forger’s Spell, Dolnick, p242)
Tom Hoving was a world expert on frauds and fakes in art and “probably the most influential and innovative museum official of the postwar period.” (obit Michael Kimmelman in NY Times; Hoving was New York’s Museum of Modern Art Director 1967-77.) Hoving had no use for any art expert who wanted to talk of “provenance” and would dismiss them as little more than a scam artist.
“Provenance as a Weapon” – In fact, provenance is a preposterous conceit and fraud that is diabolically bandied about by some – like Kinsman Robinson Galleries – in the fine art community, because they have found it a useful weapon with which to hoodwink the gullible public and flay their business competitors. They use the “provenance weapon” to convince neophyte buyers that KRG is more likely to be selling “genuine Morrisseaus” than their business competitors. And that KRG can guarantee provenance while their competition can’t.
The implied inference is that if you buy from non-KRG galleries you have a very good chance of ending up with a fake. (Remember that KRG is the entire and sole inventor of the myth of the Morrisseau Conspiracy Theory of “thousands of fakes by umpteen forgers.”)
“White Man’s Paper No fucking good” – The poster child for using provenance as a weapon is Donald Robinson who in 2008 blogged, “Provenance is everything in the art world.”
When he – as well as everyone else in the business – very well knew that was a lie – a totally unobtainable reality – with most international art, with Canadian heritage fine art, but especially so with Morrisseau art.
(A Morrisseau reality, since Norval gave no receipts and left no paper trail, whatsoever, for the overwhelming majority of his paintings. As he dismissively told Pollock in 1962 “white man’s paper’s no fucking good.” And he contemptuously was not going to provide any himself.)
Here’s a case history of how the “provenance” art scam works in practice. A patron who bought a paintings from the long-established and highly reputable Gallery on the Lake, “read that Kinsman Robinson Galleries were the only source for original Morrisseau paintings,” and so wanted his money back, if the gallery couldn’t provide detailed “provenance,” a list of all the previous owners back to the artist, for his painting.
If the gallery could not provide such documentation – and of course Robinson knew it could not, because nobody can, in the secondary market Morrisseau art world where over 9,000 of Norval’s works reside -KRG repeatedly informs its clients and the mainstream media, then the work fails this totally bogus, so-called ultimate authenticity test. Failing to obtain “chain of title” provenance documentation, for a work, is Robinson’s repeated claim, means it’s probably a forgery, since as he quite falsely alleges, “provenance is everything in the art world.”
The client is one of many who demanded his money back. One art dealer has estimated that the “provenance scam” has scared so many gullible neophyte art collectors that it has destroyed the art valuations of genuine Morrisseaus to the tune of $100 million.
There’s got to be something more reliable for provenance, than malicious gallery gossip.
There is; it’s called “Norval’s DNA.”
Galleries and their labels, come and go with greater frequency than “Hookers on Davie.” So you have to decide on what you want on your paintings: Norval and James’ DNA on the back, or a blank back and a gallery label from the
Scollard, the Lane, or the Domkjar Burton Gallery.
Ooops! Sorry, they’re all long gone, and so are their staff members. Leaving you only with a sticker as a memory. But not as a guarantee of authenticity of the painting, mind you, but only as a fading label of another failed enterprise and someone’s business dreams turned to dust.
Frankly, for my money I much prefer the genuine “Certificate of Authenticity” provided by Mafioso gallery operator Albert Volpe to people who bought his Morrisseaus. Sorry but his gallery too, along with his assurance of provenance, is long gone. But he did leave a much better quality gallery label behind than that chintzy minimal thing provided by KRG.
It looks to me like the Mafioso’s guarantee of provenance is much more reliable than that from Kinsman Robinson Galleries. Albert’s label is bigger, more ornate, has a nicer border, is much more detailed, has a registry number, has a high quality gold seal specially attached, and is – now if that is not the ultimate trump card as proof of authenticity – actually signed by the hand of Albert Volpe himself. What do you think?
Albert at least personally stood behind the authenticity of work he sold – for the Ages. Where is Donald Robinson’s signature promising authenticity for all those blank backed “Morrisseaus/Burrowsseaus” he sold?
Finally – Seriously, now, for your money, is a blank back on a painting, and a gallery label, in any way a substitute or guarantee of any kind or any thing, compared the artist’s DNA on the back?
To us it is only a stock sticker, and in fact a distraction at best. Give us something to take to the bank, or a forensic expert, like the artist’s signature. Don’t you get caught with a blank stare from your bank manager, or your forensic scientist, when you eagerly show them off the blank back on your “Burrowsseau.”
Finally what’s this Kinsman Robinson Galleries “Fair Market Valuation” worth?
Jonas Plis paid KRG several hundred dollars to assess his paintings. Paul Robinson even signed it, certifying both black dry brush paintings (BDPs) as authentic Morrisseaus, even though his Dad had loudly declared in the mainstream media six full months before, that all such BDP paintings, and all similar paintings from the same source were absolute fakes. NIAOB.
So who’s lying – the Father or the Son?
And what did Jonas Plis end up getting for his hundreds of dollars?
And what does that say about the “provenance” of these two paintings, the value of KRG documentation, and the integrity of Kinsman Robinson Galleries and its principals?
For my money, I’ll take Norval’s signature any day of the week over the signatures of Albert Volpe, Donald Robinson, or Paul Robinson, and any of their chintzy gallery labels, loudly pasted all over the blank backs of their “Morrisseaus.”
Lots of other people have the same kinds of “guarantee of provenance” provided by Kinsman Robinson Galleries, probably hundreds over the years, all for BDPs like SOMA above and the two Plis paintings.
Playing the “Dumb Dad” Card – To help you sort out who’s more inept at Morrisseau art authentication, the Father or the Son, Pop Robinson can offer guidance. Donald Robinson – doing a little promo work for his son who now runs Kinsman Robinson Galleries – told Judge Martial, his son was smarter than he was, that he was on to the so-called fakes first, before the Donald caught on to “thousands of fakes by umpteen forgers,” and that he, the Father, to his eternal regret, persisted in believing in them despite the suspicious warnings repeatedly given him by his son Paul to stay away from them.
Q (Brian Shiller). So you were confident then that the paintings were genuine Morrisseau paintings?
A. (Donald Robinson). Yes. I should say that my son, Paul, after about half-way through when those purchases were made, perhaps five or six at a time at various auctions, my son Paul at the gallery, who now runs the gallery, he told me that I should not buy any more and he was suspicious of them, and I argued with him and bought a few more, to my great regret.
Q. Okay, so your son had suspicions…
A. He did.
Q. …you didn’t. So Paul Robinson…
Q. …is your son.
(Court Trans/Hatfield v Child: Feb 23, 2012 p20)
So, how believable is any of that, considering Paul’s brash signature above, certifying as authentic on October 30, 2001, the very type of fakes his Dad had denounced six months earlier in the National Post on May 18, 2001?
And then it gets worse – In fact it was Paul Robinson who first certified these BDP paintings as great things to buy and turned his father on to them after a client brought in Potter BDP paintings to be authenticated.
On Aug. 18, 1999, Paul Robinson authenticated two BDPs for Matt Fountain, and alerted his father about the source for these paintings. Donald Robinson immediately personally started attending five (5) successive Randy Potter auctions, trying to buy some 90 (90) Potter Morrisseaus, and happily ending up with 31 (31).
So Pop Robinson was utterly wrong, about what he told Judge Martial.
In fact what he underlined instead was that his son – if you can believe this is possible? – was even worse at authenticating Morrisseau BDPs, by Donald Robinson’s own personal standard…
These two documents make it absolutely, incontrovertibly clear that, in fact, Paul Robinson first discovered the so-called Wanker fakes, was first turned on by them, turned his father on to them, and was still madly signing off on them as authentic – for hundreds of dollars a pop – many months after his father had denounced them all as lousy, tawdry, and totally disreputable forgeries in the national media.
What the documents prove is that the son is, if anything, less reliable about Morrisseau art and provenance issues than his father.
So how good are Kinsman Robinson Galleries documents and promises about provenance, especially when you consider that the backs of ALL their Morrisseaus are blank? There’s no Morrisseau DNA there, at all.
All you are left with are the Father and the Son, and their personal assurances…
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” WC Fields