Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

July 12, 2014

Who bought Northampton's Sekhemka at Christie's in London this week? Will researchers or Egyptians ever see this piece of cultural property again in public?

Sekhemka, front (Christie's)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

BBC News reported July 10 about the controversy surrounding the £15.76m sale at Christie's Auction house in London of The Northampton Sekhemka, a 4,000 year old sandstone statue of an Egyptian scribe, sold to raise funds to expand the regional museum:
Northampton Borough Council auctioned the Sekhemka limestone statue to help fund a £14m extension to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. However, Arts Council England had warned the council its museum could lose its accreditation status. The Egyptian ambassador to Britain said the council should have handed the statue back if it did not want it.
Mirror Online described reaction to the sale as "fury":
Sue Edwards, from the Save Sekhemka Action Group, who travelled from Northampton to the auction, said: "This is the darkest cultural day in the town's history. The local authority has made a huge mistake but we will continue our fight to save Sekhemka."
Sekhemka, side (Christie's)
Here's a link to a 1963 academic paper by T. J. H. James published in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, "The Northhampton Statue of Sekhemka", describing the statue as having entered a museum collection in England about 1870.

Christie's sales catalogue described the Northampton Sekhemka as "AN EXCEPTIONAL EGYPTIAN PAINTED LIMESTONE STATUE FOR THE INSPECTOR OF THE SCRIBES SEKHEMKA, OLD KINGDOM, DYNASTY 5, CIRCA 2400-2300 B.C." The statue sold for almost three times the catalogue estimate. In Christie's notes on the statue, the piece is described as belonging to the tomb of the deceased; the scroll lists 'offerings that Sekhemka needs to subsist comfortably in the afterlife.' As for the portrait of Sekhemka's wife Sitmerit:
Here, the position of Sitmerit’s body, as well as her composed expression are perhaps what gives peacefulness and harmony to this family portrait. It shows the close link between husband and wife, and their attachment to their family. The smaller scale should not be interpreted as a symbol of womens' place in society; rather, it is an artistic choice, for women had an equal status with men. She provides the love and support that her family needs. She prompts desire, gives life, and watches over her loved ones. She has a protective role and is the grounding force for the family.
Sekhemka, detail of wife (Christie's)
Christie's writes that a similar statue resides at the Brooklyn Museum:
Only one other statue is attributed to Sekhemka, Inspector of the Scribes, now in the Brooklyn Museum. The kneeling figure is made of diorite, the base is in limestone, painted to imitate diorite and is decorated as an offering table. It is suggested that Sekhemka may have had a discarded royal sculpture repaired and a base added to it. The similar quality of the carving between this and the present lot certainly serves to link the two pieces. Moreover, both statues were brought out of Egypt at around the same time; Dr. Henry Abbott, the original owner of the Brooklyn Sekhemka, returned with his collection in 1851.
The group interested in preventing Sekhemka's sale at Christie's created a Facebook page, "Save Sekhemka Action Group community", and a blog by Ruth Thomas, Chair of Northamptonshire Ancient Egyptian Society, who wrote in late 2012:
Sekhemka, the scroll (Christie's)
Northampton is one of the largest towns in the UK and has a diverse and cosmopolitan population. We are proud of this diversity and keen to celebrate it. In fact, even when the town itself shied away from promoting ethnic groups other than its own host population Northampton Museum collected widely from across the world and was at the forefront in providing expression to this multi-ethnicity. Our collections have been drawn from the four corners of the earth, whether it be the superb Chinese pottery horse of the Tang dynasty, the Hindu sculpture of Devi or the Italian renaissance paintings. For over a century the museum has not been small-minded and parochial in its collecting policy but aware of its role in promoting Northampton’s multi-cultural approach in a multi-cultural town. And this is why the sale of the ancient Egyptian scribe Sekhemka is such a retrograde step. 
Sekhemka, back (Christie's)
Sekhemka stands alone in its quality, antiquity and craftsmanship. It is part of a civilisation which existed on the continent of Africa for over two thousand years. For children of African and African Caribbean heritage this is unique opportunity to reconnect with their own roots and to understand that Northampton Museum has something which represents not only British history but encompasses the achievements of people from across the world. It also gives the message that Northampton Museum is aware of its role in educating and inspiring all the people of the town – as one school pupil said to me as he admired Sekhemka on a group trip for the National Curriculum “Oh I didn’t know you did Egypt”. Well, we should do Egypt and a whole lot more. The removal of Sekhemka from the museum is a dramatic and signal move away from a world view of our history to a small-minded and elitist approach which will inevitably alienate our visitors and supporters in the years to come.

March 10, 2013

Jonathan Keat's FORGED: What Is Culture? Tom Keating (1917-1984)

The artist who copyrighted his mind in 2003, Jonathan Keats, questions the concept of originality in his new book, FORGED: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age (December 2012, Oxford University Press).

What is Culture? Tom Keating (1917-1984)

In 1982, British national television showed Tom Keating demonstrating how he painted in the style of masters such as Titian and Rembrandt. In his 1977 autobiography The Fake’s Progress, Keating, a former housepainter who had worked for art restorers, declared the use of inferior materials (“recklessness”) such as acrylics in ‘oil paintings’ indicated that his pictures in the style of great masters were never meant to fool the serious art market.

Rather than scraping down the old potboilers he bought in junk shops, he simply cleaned them with alcohol and reprimed them with a layer of rabbit-skin glue. He painted directly onto this surface, often in acrylics, sometimes brushing on a layer of darkening varnish before the paint cured. The results were predictably catastrophic. Even if his synthetic pigments were never detected by scientific testing, the paint would start to peel in a few decades, betraying his ruse.

Keating allegedly forged the work of Cornelius Krieghoff, a Dutch artist of the 19th century famous for his Canadian landscapes. Keats writes:

A Dutch artist working in Quebec City in the 1850s, Krieghoff produced thousands of diminutive farm and tavern scenes, many of which were bought as souvenirs by British soldiers. Historians came to value them for their detailed documentation of Canadian customs. Collectors coveted them for their decorative charm. Dealers delighted in their escalating prices, reaching into the thousands of pounds by the 1950s. Keating appreciated them for Krieghoff’s skillful depiction of “jolly little Brueghelesque figures” and for the fact that Krieghoff “did so many versions of the same picture” – to which hundreds more could and would be added over the following decade.

In the early 1950s, Keating sold forgeries through junk shops in south London, then through country auctions in Scotland where he worked ‘restoring the trifling art collections of minor Highlands castles’, then on to counterfeiting paintings by artists such as Degas, Goya and Samuel Palmer whom he claimed possessed him and used him to create more artworks long after their deaths. A Times of London correspondent, Geraldine Norman, began unraveling the forgeries of Keating in 1970 but didn’t publish until 1976. Once confronted, Keating immediately confessed:

Alluding to the full scope of his forgery, he declared that money was not his incentive.  “I flooded the market with the ‘work’ of Palmer and many others, not for gain (I hope I am no materialist) but simply as a protest against the merchants who make capital out of those I am proud to call my brother artists, both living and dead.”

International headlines followed Keating, along with a book-deal to be ‘ghost-written’ by Norman’s husband, Frank, a petty-thief-turned-playwright. However, at Keating’s three-week trial ended when he fell ill and the prosecutor dropped the case. Keating recovered and became a celebrity after forging works for more than two decades in 12 television episodes before he died of heart failure.

March 20, 2012

Art Fraudster John Drewe Jailed for 8 Years Following Real Estate Fraud Trial in Norwich

Christine Cunningham reported for the Evening News on March 12 that John Drewe, 64, convicted in 1999 of art fraud, was jailed for eight years after his conviction for fraud by the Norwich Crown Court for stealing 240,000 sterling pounds from a retired music teacher in an attempt to steal her home and life savings.  You can read the article here.

Ms. Cunningham writes that the court heard that Drewe had been convicted more than a dozen years ago of "conspiracy to defraud, forgery and theft, involving a major art fraud and was jailed for six years."

Andrew Levy for the Daily Mail reports that Drewe used the stolen money to purchase luxury cars and "to pay off his son's debts":

Drewe had been jailed in 1999 for masterminding one of the biggest art frauds of the century. He made £1.8million by commissioning paintings and passing them off as rediscovered works by major artists.
Using the forgeries made by John Myatt, Drewe sold 200 fake original artworks. John Myatt, who's own website claims Myatt "was involved in the biggest art con in the UK", now sells "legitimate fakes" and claims his life will be the subject of movies and television shows.

Noah Charney wrote about John Drewe's activities in the Fall 2010 Journal of Art Crime in his column Lessons from the History of Art Crime "The Art World Wants to be Deceived: Issues in Authentication and Inauthentication":
John Myatt and John Drewe created false documents to act as provenance for the forged paintings they created, and then inserted them into real archives, so that diligent researchers would "discover" them and link them to the forged paintings.

At ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia last summer (2011), Peter Watson, author of numerous books including The Medici Conspiracy and Sotheby's the Inside Story, in a discussion titled "Some Unpublished and Unpalatable Details about Recent Art Crimes", said that John Drewe had once been suspected of burning down a house that killed a Hungarian lodger.

If John Drewe serves his full jail sentence, he will be able to pursue other opportunities at the age of 72.