22 July 2014


The SMH reports another controversy regarding authenticity, gatekeepers and alleged fraud in the Australian fine art market.

The article leads off with the tantalising "Up to 30 per cent of the artworks offered in the Australian art market could be forgeries, the Supreme Court has been told in a case that threatens to lift the lid on dubious practices in the art world" and goes on to report on litigation in progress involving Sydney barrister Louise McBride, Christies, dealer Alex Holland and art consultant Vivienne Sharpe.

McBride acquired what was claimed to be Faun and Parrot by Albert Tucker for $86,000. She reportedly relied on the description in the Christies catalogue and advice from Ms Sharpe. Francis Douglas QC, for McBride, is reported as stating that there was "no doubt that Christies had expressed an opinion" that the work was by Tucker and signed by him, with no question mark attached to the item – the usual convention used by Christies to signal some doubt.

McBride reportedly decided to litigate after she tried to sell the work and was informed by Sotheby's that the painting was probably a fake.

McBride has reportedly 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.