Do you happen to know the whereabouts of Psyche? Its the painting that graces this cover of the new Awa Press book: Art Thieves, Fakers & Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story?
The publisher asks, because it went missing 74 years ago from Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch, and has never been seen again.
Psyche was a massive turn-of-the-century work painted by British artist Solomon J. Solomon. It had been torn from its gilt frame. An inspection of the building found wax matches on the floor. Some window catches had been tampered with and a glass pane broken.
Yet there seemed no possible way thieves could have got the painting out of the gallery and through the locked gates of the surrounding Botanic Gardens.
Was it an inside job? A wartime prank by visiting US servicemen? A phantom operating through a locked skylight?
The Psyche mystery is just one of the intriguing stories in Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story.
Author Penelope Jackson is an art historian, former director of Tauranga Art Gallery, and founding member of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust, set up in 2015.
Lest we think that art theft, faking and forgery are things that happen only in other countries, Jackson's book unveils a catalogue of Kiwi home-grown skulduggery.
|Urewera mural, 1975|
Some crimes, such as the heist of the $2 million Colin McCahon Urewera Mural from the visitor centre at Waikaremoana, have made headlines, but others have not been widely publicised by galleries perhaps anxious to not to deter potential donors.
With many valuable art collections hanging in private homes, Jackson also includes timely suggestions on how to ensure artworks don’t disappear out the door, like five much–loved paintings that took flight from an Auckland home twenty-five years ago. They, too, have never been found.
And if you’re advertising your house for sale on New Zealand's Trade Me, you may want to read this book first.
Take a look at what the academics in the field are saying:
Release date: October 14, 2016; RRP: $40.00
For a review copy, cover image, extracts, and/or interview with the author, contact Sarah Thornton, sarah.thornton (at) prcomms.com; (09) 479-8763/021 753 744