The Sydney Morning Herald has a pair of stories that show just how much trouble a rogue dealer can cause in one art art market. Ron Coles disappeared a few years ago when it was discovered that he had been selling investment works of art to multiple parties and pocketing the extra money. He was also laundering money for a motorcycle gang through the same mechanism. Coles seems to have taken with him 30 valuable and important works of Australian art:
A TREASURE trove of artworks by some of Australia’s most acclaimed artists, including Brett Whiteley, Arthur Streeton, Arthur Boyd and Norman Lindsay, is missing and may never be found.
The 30 vanished works, which include a watercolour from Lindsay’s Sirens series, are collectively worth millions of dollars. […] They include Frederick McCubbin’s Labouring in the Bush, which went under the hammer for $320,000 in 2005, and Whiteley’s Flame Tree, Port Vila, sold for $270,000 the same year. Also missing are Boyd’s Moonrise with Riversdale Hill, Streeton’s Melbourne from the Dandenongs, Lindsay’s Gypsy Girl as well as paintings by Tom Roberts and Eugene von Guerard.
On top of that, Coles sold many works by d’Arcy Doyle which has caused confusion in the artist’s market. A forensic expert has determined that distinctive herringbone-patterned board upon which many supposed Doyles are painted was not available in Australia at the time Doyle was working.
Nonetheless, Doyle’s widow has authenticated hundreds of works recently creating absurd encounters like this one:
When the Morpeth Gallery owner, Trevor Richards, bought Kites in Full Flight sight unseen from Davidson Auctions in Sydney last October, he quickly realised the painting was a fake.
Mr Richards, who has specialised in Doyles for more than 20 years, said: ”I knew immediately it was a fake. The auction house took back the painting, contacted the owner and refunded the money. That was the last I thought I’d ever see of it. I was wrong.”
Last week, Mr Richards was contacted by a woman who wanted to sell the same painting. Mr Richards told her: ”I have seen this painting before and it is a fake. You tried to sell it at Davidson Auctions in October last year?”
”Yes that’s true,” she replied, ”but [that was] before I took it to Queensland to have it authenticated by [Jennefer] Doyle, which she has.”
He told the woman: ”It cannot be an original by d’Arcy W. Doyle; as such, it is a fake – no matter who authenticates it.”
Artworks May Never Be Found (Sydney Morning Herald)
Dozens of Doyles Ain’t Doyles (Sydney Morning Herald)