There’s a headline in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that’s getting a lot of attention and deserves some explanation and context. The headline says up to 30% of the works on the Australian art market might be fakes. But that comment is part of a lawyer’s pleading with very little to back it up in fact. Indeed, the case Francis Douglas is pleading involves Louise McBride (above with her daughter) who bought an Albert Tucker painting that unbeknown to her was once handled by a dealer who had previously sold works that were fake.
But Ms McBride has since discovered that Christies had two conflicting provenances for the painting, listing different galleries as its original source. The one referred to in the catalogue said it had been bought by a Mr Ivan O’Sullivan at the Tolarno Gallery in Melbourne in 1969 and inherited by his son, Barry.
Mr Douglas said Christies did nothing to check the provenance, and there were doubts about whether any of Christies’ experts even inspected the painting before the auction.
But soon after the sale, Christies received another version of events from Mr O’Sullivan: that it was purchased from Dominion Galleries in Sydney by his father.
Christies then consulted Melbourne University art experts after the May auction about Ms McBride’s painting and another painting after concerns were raised about whether there were several Tucker fakes on the market.
Despite advice from university experts that both works were suspect, Christies proceeded to auction the second suspect work in August that year. It has since repaid the $69,000 to Australia Club, the purchaser, the court heard.
McBride is also suing her art adviser for having undisclosed interests the sales of her works.
Supreme Court fraud case reveals corruption in art market (Sydney Morning Herald)