Seizure of more than 1,000 works falsely attributed to Norval Morrisseau

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Seizure over 1000 works falsely attributed to Norval Morrisseau

More than a thousand works of art have been seized as a result of the law enforcement investigation called “Project Totton”.

About 1,200 works of art, falsely attributed to Anishinabe artist Norval Morrisseau, were seized in a joint investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Criminal Investigation Branch (OPB) and the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS).

The police also arrested eight individuals involved in organized networks, accused of producing and distributing works fraudulently attributed to Norval Morrisseau.

Five of the individuals arrested last Wednesday are residents of Thunder Bay, including Benjamin Paul Morrisseau, nephew of the late artist.

These individuals face a total of 40 charges, which include forgery and intent to defraud the public.

The City of Thunder Bay Police Department told CBC the investigation had started in Thunder Bay in 2019. TBPS later partnered with the Ontario Provincial Police, due to the scope of the investigation.

The allegedly infringing works were seized from private and institutional collections.

False would also be in international collections, according to the police.

“We believe there is a fake at the Smithsonian in Washington.

— Jason Rybak, Detective Sergeant with the Thunder Bay Police Service

The press release issued by the OPP claims that prior to the artist's death in 2007, allegations began to emerge that individuals were creating and selling art under his name and in his distinctive Woodland School style. of Art.

Cory Dingle, the managing director of the estate of Norval Morrisseau, says some have been calling for this truth to be uncovered for 24 years.

It is the documentary There are no fakes, by Jamie Kastner which was the starting point of this investigation , Detective Sergeant Jason Rybak revealed. In trying to prove that the work purchased by the keyboardist of the Barenaked Ladies, Kevin Hearn, is not authentic, the director falls on a network of forgers. (File photo)

The investigation confirms that the alleged criminal activity took place over decades. Kevin Veillieux, Detective Inspector at the OPP and Jason Rybak, Detective Sergeant at the TBPS, identified three fraudulent groups, led respectively by David Voss, from 1996, Gary Lamont, from 2002 and Jeffrey Cowan, from 2008.

Although independent, the three groups would still have exchanged their expertise, with the help of James White and Paul Bremner, responsible for creating certificates of authenticity and expertise.

The creation of these certificates and false provenances played a major role in tricking buyers into believing the works were authentic Morrisseaus, says Rybak.

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 dlqbmr">From Sandpoint First Nation, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek, Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunder Bird, is recognized as the father of the Woodland style school.

This is how some works were sold for tens of thousands of dollars, to members of the public who had no reason to doubt their authenticity, according to the information given during the press conference.

“Some were completely devastated that they had spent money thinking they were making a good investment. They were obviously very angry, some hurt and some embarrassed. ”

— Kevin Veillieux, Detective Inspector with the Ontario Provincial Police

Norval Morrisseau did not keep a register of these works and he was an extremely prolific, says Dingle.

Which certainly contributed to making him an easy victim, concludes Mr. Rybak before adding that Norval Morrisseau lived in poverty and struggled to feed his family.

“Sometimes he used his paintings as payment for milk and eggs.

— Jason Rybak, Detective Sergeant with the Thunder Bay Police Service

Mr. Dingle is therefore pleased with the results of this investigation. Especially since the estate wishes to create a catalog raisonné of the artist's works.

The influx of forgeries on the art market for decades has driven the price of the artist's work down, says Dingle.

Investigators relied on witness interviews and technology to verify the authenticity of the works seized.

He adds that the international community often asked him why Canada was not taking action on this file and questioned him: How is your greatest artist, this cultural icon and one of the greatest Aboriginal artists in the world…how is it that it could have lasted for 24 years?

And after 24 years […], the damage to the value of the works, to the legacy of his work means that 'it will take years to get this all sorted,' he laments.

However, Mr. Dingle concedes that he This is a very positive first step in restoring Canada's reputation internationally, yes.

Mr. Veilllieux and Mr. Rybak claim that many forgeries are still in circulation and invite individuals who would like to confirm the authenticity of their works to contact a lawyer or to visit the PPO website in order to have more information. x27; information on how to do this.

With information from Kris Ketonen, CBC

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