Update – Dec. 30
“Commander of the Canadian Army Calling”
This past week I got a typical email of a type I constantly receive as curator of the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum.
Rewind: I founded the world’s first “internet museum” in 1999. The museum, won a rare honoured designation, and financial support, from the Government of Canada as “A Canadian Millennium Project” in 1999, for an innovative heritage initiative that listed as the official founding curator – a mandatory requirement – historian John Goldi csc, and the credentials he brought to the task. MUSEUM MENU
My museum was used by Archives Canada as a model when years later, it started its own virtual internet museum. My museum is still, 19 years after I founded it, the largest and most lavishly illustrated internet museum in the world, far outstripping, in large illustrations and educational modules, anything else published by the great museums of the world, including the Imperial War Museum in London, the Smithsonian in Washington, and the Canadian Museum of History. FEEDBACK
(And unlike most other “internet museums” which publish only virtual collections, using lowlife cribbed pictures and documents they copy and paste from other internet archives – hence virtual museums – my museum actually showcases ONLY a bricks-and-mortal collection of some 7,500 unique antique paintings, documents, and artifacts which it alone has in its vaults. Exactly like the major public museums in the world.)
Chasing Authenticity Because There is Never Any Provenance – The story behind this single photo is a very good illustration of how I, as a forensic historian – an investigative journalist of history – track down and evaluate Canada’s antique material culture to rescue valuable historic Canadian cultural artifacts from the trash heap of history, because there is NEVER any provenance, and often not even any identification attached.
Each historic item has to be researched and evaluated by itself, by cross-checking it with other genuine authenticated pictures and documents – that were themselves previously authenticated – to establish: “Is it a match?”
This article which I published in 2004, gives a good example of what I have done thousands of times in order to establish the authenticity of the 7,500 paintings and artifacts in my museum. AUTHENTICATING DUNDONALD
I, and my professional colleagues who do this curatorial sleuthing, do NOT, as some art historians are wont to do, just sit before a painting and bluff, bluster, and blow at it, hoping that if they are loud enough, brash enough, and insistent enough, it will transform itself into something they desperately want it to be – for some undisclosed personal motivation – when no amount of willful braggadocio will ever do that.
No credible historian or museum curator I know would ever do that.
Let alone mount a wrong-headed attack on an item’s supposed written provenance, cadged together by some distracted respondent (like in Joe McLeod’s case) or some other uninformed motivated seller. And then on that basis to call it a fake. It would be a ludicrous pursuit for anyone knowledgeable about vetting Canada’s huge repository of material culture to attempt.
“He’s just some random dude on the internet.”
Delivered – in court – with all the sneering mockery that a CJC*** type lawyer from remote, rural Quebec can muster against a longtime
– internationally-acclaimed top Canadian film and television documentary cinematographer, director, writer, editor, and producer, an
– internationally-acclaimed creator and distributor of award-winning educational film and video programs to thousands of schools, universities, corporate and government offices, in every Canadian province and every US state, a
– winner of over 130 international awards for film & television excellence in competition with the best documentary producers from around the world, a
– a nationally-honoured and acclaimed Canadian heritage promoter and activist, and an
– internationally-acclaimed internet museum curator and credentialed historian
***According to the Barreau du Québec (the Law Society of Quebec) Jonathan Jerome Sommer is NOT licensed as an Avocat (an provincially accredited lawyer) in Quebec, and is NOT licensed to practice law there under Quebec statutes. In other words he could NOT sue Joe McLeod from Quebec. In Quebec he is only registered with the Barreau, as a Conseiller Juridique Canadien (CJC), a minor Barreau affiliate status only introduced in 2008. It was started to accommodate those few lawyers who live in Quebec, but who have no recognized or licensed provincial status there, but have standing in some other province.
This is probably why Sommer advertises himself as a “Virtual Lawyer” in his bio. And how trying to track him down for service, I discovered, from the address that the Barreau du Québec provided me, that he actually works most days in remote, rural Sutton, Quebec. And the tenant on the main floor of an old clapboard house there, affirms that Sommer works upstairs, on the “deuxième étage” most days.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF “A RANDOM DUDE ON THE INTERNET”
FEEDBACK – Or possibly Mr. Sommer was referring to this…
Or perhaps this:
“Just a Random Dude on the Internet” – Some Accomplishments:
Capt. James Cooper Mason DSO – Published and documented that the world’s first combat cameraman, in history, was NOT Robert Capa in 1936 in Spain, but a Canadian, Capt. James Cooper Mason, who took the world’s very first combat photo in the front lines of an active battlefield at Paardeberg on Bloody Sunday, Feb. 18, 1900.
An Event of National Historic Significance – Got the Canadian government to declare “Canada and the South African War an event of national historic significance” (by Heritage Minister Stéphane Dion in 2005) and get dates for the Boer War added to the National War Memorial (2014).
Scared Shitless at Ipperwash Part 1 – Publicly Exposed the Infamous & Murderous Attack on Indigenous families at Ipperwash – by racist government officials, police forces, and the mainstream media – in 1995, exposing it all in a feature documentary that won the PLATINUM super-prize for “Investigative Journalism” at the world’s largest film and television festival in Houston, TX. It exposed the worst racist malfeasance by the establishment (government, police, media) against Indigenous people in Ontario history.
Scared Shitless at Ipperwash Part 2 – My 73 days of research “behind the barricades” of Camp Ipperwash convinced Ontario’s SIU (Special Investigations Unit), on Dec. 8, 1995, at 11 a:m, to abort the ending of its 3 month-long investigation, that found NO police officer guilty of any malfeasance in the killing of Dudley George. The SIU agreed to restart its investigation if I would act as liaison to get its investigators behind the barricades, from which ALL police forces and outsiders – both native and non-native – were barred. I arranged access, and accompanied the SIU as its investigators entered Camp Ipperwash and filmed its activities inside.
Scared Shitless at Ipperwash Part 3 – The Ipperwash Inquiry (2004-2007) – in the only hearings it held in a private house – sat for two days in mine, in 2004, reviewing my on-site documentary footage, filmed interviews, and personal recollections from 1995. Its lawyers knew everything they would ever learn, in great detail, just by listening to my historic interview video tapes*** of ALL the people who were on the shooting site, recorded a decade before. The inquiry knew it all, from the horse’s mouth – Susan Vella wrote notes, non-stop, for two days of viewing – BEFORE it even began its hearings and taking depositions from people trying to recall events from 10 years before. In one major case a totally key and insightful participant had died in the interim. My tapes had preserved his eloquent testimony for the Ages (***”Boy are these ever high quality” – Inquiry lawyer Susan Vella)
Exposed Canada’s Worst Ever Publishing Disaster – The Canadian War Museum’s 42 worst egregious pictorial errors in its illustrated history of the Boer War.
Proposed a Make-over of Canada’s Embarrassingly Gloating War Memorial – to alter it from a jingoistic, gloating, misogynist relic of bygone days, to become a “Hearts and Minds” memorial to a past generation, suitable for modern times and peoples.
Rolled up a huge list of landmark victories in exposing the worst art fraud in Canadian history with TheMorrisseauHoaxExposedBlog.com.
Chasing provenance for any item is a fool’s game – or a historian’s – not only because it rarely ever even exists, even in fragmentary ways, due to everyone who once owned an item, not caring in the slightest about recording such things, or always, for a thousand reasons, trying to hide where it came from… But for a historian, like myself, who always welcomes more, rather than less information, it can be a nice addendum to any item. But a highly questionable addendum at the best of times. And a dastardly distraction most of the time.
Because from long experience, I have found that family provenance – which the uninformed might assume would be the best possible source for credible information on historical items in their possession – is most times, the worst, and frequently ludicrously erroneous.
In her “expert” report and on the stand, Carmen Robertson blustered about how important provenance is – when it isn’t. And under cross-examination she was forced to admit, something she had tried to hide from the judge, that even in the public galleries about which she bragged so much, the provenance listings among the Morrisseau paintings she had checked, were almost entirely incomplete.
Now why wouldn’t they be fakes too, when she uses the erroneous and incomplete or inaccurate provenance listing for “Spirit Energy,” to publicly call Joe McLeod a liar, and a deliberate crook, and also her idea of proof that therefore his painting must be a forgery?
But we didn’t need to be told that mos t museum artifacts have no verified provenance. All knowledgeable curators and historians have always known that.
In fact of the 7,500 authenticated items in my museum 99.99% have NO provenance attached. None… Nix… Nada… Zip… for a hell of a lot of reasons you already know about.
And this colossal lack of information about who once owned these things down the decades, in no way undermines in any way the authenticity of these rare Canadian historic items.
I note that the research officer for the General Commanding the Canadian Army, did NOT ask me to provide provenance. His non interest in provenance, is ALWAYS the standard response by publishers, professors, or museum curators around the world who ask for copies of my images. They evaluate the material culture by what it is, NOT by who actually may or may not have owned it, at some defined or indefinite period in the past. Or any BS claims I might make hoping to make a sale…
“Hello, Richard, Carmen here… Are you for real?”
And the corroborating example Robertson chose to give, on the stand, about the importance of a provenance name, was absurd, to be polite. She used as a supporting example, to successfully confirm a name on a provenance list, her research of a name attached to a painting called “The Land.”
That painting had but a single name in its provenance documentation. And that name, which she says she “researched” – but chose not disclose to the court – was none other than her longtime crony on the NMHS, lawyer Richard Baker, and a man for whom she had “documented” his personal art collection.***
And who was sitting right in front of her when she loudly gave her testimony about it. In fact when she started to talk about this I immediately swiveled in my seat to catch Baker squirm uncomfortably in his chair. Because he and I were the only other people in court, who knew exactly what was going on.
*** “I observed this work (another Baker painting) first hand while documenting the (private Richard Baker) collection in 2012.” (Carmen Robertson report, page 6, and page 63.)
And of course, her vetting Baker’s personal collection, hugely makes it balloon in value, especially since both also aggressively collaborate to denigrate the Morrisseau BDP art that you and I – and thousands of other collectors around the world – have, as crap.
I smell smoke, don’t you? – Richard Baker, in an unguarded moment on the stand, when asked about 15,000 paintings Norval had possibly painted, boisterously disagreed,
“Oh, no. We’ve reduced that down to 5,000.” Trying to bridge the gap between himself and his art consultant, Robertson, who said in her not-so-secret anymore report, that Norval’s “oeuvre” is “above 1,000 works.”
It was something so outrageous that it was one of the few times the lawyer for the Defence chose to question something said by a Plaintiff’s witness during cross-examination.
Baker in case you missed it, is mostly notorious these days for utterly failing to bring a single example of the NMHS Wanker 16 to court to show the public the proof of what an NMHS fake looks like; to prove the Hearn v McLeod lawsuit has any merit; to prove he has credibility on anything to do with Morrisseau or art; and to prove that the NMHS is anything other than a branch plant operation*** of Toronto’s Kinsman Robinson Galleries “provenance manufactory” involved in deliberately doing Great Irreparable Harm to the Art and Artists of Canada’s Indigenous people.
***Thanks to an Otavnik court action, Baker had been publicly exposed as taking part in a secret meeting in his Toronto office, in early July, 2009, with Donald Robinson (KRG), John MacGregor Newman (Assistant Director of KRG), and Ritchie Sinclair (KRG Fraud Enforcer), in a plotting session to examine, discredit, and devalue, the Otavnik painting “Jesuit Preist 1974.” Robinson wrote a 114 page “expert” report in September, calling it “fake.” At the suggestion of Judge MD Godfrey, Otavnik, a year later, went to get the painting forensically examined. It was found to be completely genuine (Dec. 2011)
AND WOW! Another BDP from 1974, a year in which Carmen Robertson says her “research” found no evidence of any genuine Morrisseau BDPs***. This painting and its forensic authentication have been published for many years, since 2011. Where the hell was she looking?
***Robertson also deliberately ignores Kinsman Robinson Galleries’ own Wanker #1 “Warriors in Circle of Life 1974,” which I had also managed to get forensically authenticated, in Sep. 2017, as a another genuine Morrisseau BDP from the same year as “Spirit Energy of Mother Earth 1974” was painted.
There are of course others, of an artist called prolific, over a period of some 40 plus years, by everyone. (Compare: other prolific artists are Doris McCarthy (c 35,000 works); Picasso (between 50–100,000 works.)
Trust me, Carmen and Richard will get their act together on their numbers soon enough… Just as soon as she finishes vetting his name on “The Land.”
Baker was the only person who had ever owned that painting (The Land), and he only had it for a couple of years or so, getting if from Norval when he said he was his lawyer (1975-82), before he flipped it for a good tax credit to the McMichael Gallery in 1982.
“Vetting” names of lawyers who flipped Morrisseau paintings, as “research,” is a huge joke. Because the lawyers involved – Baker, Zelinski, Pustina, and Whent – got them directly from Norval, then only kept them a couple of years, or less, before flipping them for big tax credits to public institutions.
ALL these names, and donations, are ultra-heavily documented: from Norval, directly to lawyers, and directly to public institutions, accompanied by mountains of public gallery and Canada Revenue Agency paperwork.
(The lawyers Pustina, Zelinski, and Whent, flipped 216 Morrisseau paintings between 1984-86. Whent, in a private email said every single painting came from Gary Lamont who was Norval’s dealer and carouser, at the time, but that Norval vetted each one in Gary’s company.)
If ever there was a provenance trail that DID NOT NEED TO BE VETTED FOR AUTHENTICITY OF PROVENANCE, it is paintings from Pustina, Zelinski, Whent, and did I mention, Richard Baker?
Nobody, but nobody I know, would possibly question their names on any provenance list.
But they would certainly wonder about the utter folly, and private agenda, of anyone to call it “research” to check any of them out? Like of “The Land” and Richard Baker.
In fact their Morrisseaus hugely PROVE the exception regarding provenance.
99% of Morrisseaus can never claim to have provenance of any kind comparable, in any way, to these lawyer CRA donations. In fact MOST Morrisseaus – like 99% of most fine art sold at auction – have none or a vestigial minimum left. And that includes the many hundreds I have seen and including my own purchases. It’s nice if you can get it, but it matters NOT A JOT if you can or can’t get provenance. And 99% of people who buy art, in Canada, or anywhere else, do not give a damn either. Because, hey – it’s all totally irrelevant.
And if you don’t believe that, you open yourself up to being sucker-punched by fraudsters making claims they have manufactured just for gullible dupes like you… and David Mirvish… and Steve Martin… and Taylor Thomson. All lost millions for mindlessly believing “guaranteed foolproof provenance” for the art they bought.
Remember Tom Hoving:
“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 PF Hoving, longtime Director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, international expert on art forgery, and called by the NY Times, “probably the most influential museum official of the postwar period” quoted in, The Forger’s Spell, Dolnick, p242)
Est sicut factum est… The painting is what it is; not what someone – even a misguided professor – says it is.
So how corroborative or indicative of the importance of provenance is Robertson chasing down Baker’s name to check out chain of title authenticity of a painting he is documented as getting directly from Norval Morrisseau when employed by him as a lawyer? Would you call that researching a name? What kind of credible research of provenance was that? Can you figure out what she was up to, by bringing up this distracting canard in court? In reply to a query about what other provenance lists of names she had researched.
In short she seems to say “I checked and found Richard Baker answering to his name, proving he once owned ‘The Land,’ like it says, proving it’s authentic like he is.”*** Sadly, and damningly, her argument seems to continue, “When I looked for ‘Robert’ Voss, he didn’t exist, proving he couldn’t have owned ‘Spirit Energy.’ So that proves it’s a fake by a forger. Case closed.”
Duuuh… It would seem to me, that a more responsible approach for any thinking person – what the law says an average person would be expected to do in a similar situation – would have been to just call up Joe McLeod or Randy Potter and say, “Hey, I’ve got a problem with this Robert Voss name?” Within seconds, both could have told her they never heard of it – that there was merely some mistake in recollection. But NOT Robertson, who had another agenda she was more interested in pursuing…
*** This Robertson “test of authenticity” is, of course, all by itself, absurd.
COMPARE: David Mirvish’s name is attached to three Jackson Pollocks as the original buyer and owner who shelled out $12 million for them. A phone call to Mirvish would have established that provenance trail as foolproof, with David admitting ownership, and the authenticity of the provenance – and the painting – therefore supposedly established. Case closed.
Not so fast professor…
The Mirvish paintings ALL turned out to be TOTAL FAKES, whether David’s name was authenticated as attached or not. Not only that, but David Mirvish was the LAST one in the world to admit they were fakes, persisting in hanging on to his false claim, years after all the top experts in the world had denounced his art and his wrong-headed and stubborn delusions about its authenticity.
And that was for paintings of rather recent vintage and purchased from the best and most reputable New York art gallery.
Note how the con goes right to the top where the best people dress up to impress each other. Art fraud is all about MILLIONS, not the penny ante stuff for which Norval sold his art for decades.
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” WC Fields
Not only because of that, but because whether you are ever able – or not able – to establish, “Chain of Title,” about who owned it, where and when, over the years, IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING WHATSOEVER, on what the item in front of you actually is…
So, get over it, wasting your life chasing Fool’s Gold. Suspect something unsavoury is afoot, by those trying to distract you by insistently attempting to lead you down the garden path to chase “Provenance” or “Providence” or whatever you want to call it…
Better call in a forensic historian, or a forensic handwriting expert, to do an evaluation based on some scientific analysis of the material culture itself.
Something you can get your teeth into.
Which you assuredly can not do with gusts of prairie wind blowing in from Wascana Creek.
Which is exactly what I did, with regard to authenticating “Spirit Energy of Mother Earth 1974,” to get away from the bluff, bluster, and blow, blasting in from Wascana Creek – let a scientist look at the material culture itself. A man I did not direct, did not solicit, did not know, and did not pay.
He did NOT, BEFOREHAND, for some reason, ask what the provenance for the painting was, before starting his own scientific examination of the signature and its authenticity.
Or what some prairie professor claimed it was or was not… In fact Robertson – who has NO creditation in material culture analysis or authentication NOR handwriting analysis or document examination credentials listed in her bios – brashly and boldly, has said for years, that the painting AND the BDP signature were total fakes… Aggressively continuing to sneer off forensic experts and multiple judges who have examined the evidence and are diametrically opposed to what she claims about Morrisseau art.
On Sep. 25, 2017, the credentialed and certified handwriting expert, authenticated “Spirit Energy” as a genuine Morrisseau BDP, giving it the highest authenticity rating he was able to give it… And he swore to that before a notary. He also said he has so far authenticated some 100 similar Morrisseau BDPs, as authentic, when compared to his large database of original Morrisseau signatures – on letters and paintings – that he has amassed over the years.