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Bob Dylan Says He ‘Regrets’ an ‘Error in Judgment’ in Selling Machine-Signed Art and Books: ‘I Want to Rectify It Immediately’

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Bob Dylan issued a rare public statement Friday night to admit that he “regrets” having made “an error in judgment” in using machine technology to affix duplicate signatures to artwork and books that were advertised and sold as hand-signed over the past three years.

He says the use of autopen signatures only occurred since 2019, when he was afflicted with a case of vertigo, and on through the pandemic, when he was not able to have staff assist him with the hand-signing he had previously done. Dylan says was given “the assurance that this kind of thing is done ‘all the time’ in the art and literary worlds.” Now that it has come to light and stirred controversy, the singer-songwriter says, “I want to rectify it immediately. I’m working with Simon & Schuster and my gallery partners to do just that.”

Other musicians have been suspected of using autopen for purportedly hand-signed items, and in rare instances have even owned up to it, but the others have not been selling art prints that routinely sell for $3,000 to $15,000, as Dylan’s art prints do. Dylan’s statement indicating that he has used for autopen to sign artwork follows Simon & Schuster’s admission one week ago that a batch of $600 autographed copies of Dylan’s new book, “Philosophy of Modern Song,” had been machine-signed, with refunds immediately offered.

A gallery that has specialized in selling Dylan art prints, the U.K.-based Castle Galleries, issued a statement Saturday to say it was “reaching out to each and every one of our collectors who purchased any print from the (pertinent) editions to offer a solution to fully rectify the matter.” It’s believed that galleries that sold the recent artwork will be announcing a plan to deal with the issue early this week.

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Dylan’s statement, published on his Facebook account, says that he did hand-sign everything that was advertised as such up until 2019. It reads as follows:

“To my fans and followers, I’ve been made aware that there’s some controversy about signatures on some of my recent artwork prints and on a limited edition of ‘Philosophy Of Modern Song.’ I’ve hand-signed each and every art print over the years, and there’s never been a problem,” the statement begins.

“However, in 2019 I had a bad case of vertigo and it continued into the pandemic years. It takes a crew of five working in close quarters with me to help enable these signing sessions, and we could not find a safe and workable way to complete what I needed to do while the virus was raging. So, during the pandemic, it was impossible to sign anything and the vertigo didn’t help. With contractual deadlines looming, the idea of using an auto-pen was suggested to me, along with the assurance that this kind of thing is done ‘all the time’ in the art and literary worlds.”

Dylan’s statement concludes, “Using a machine was an error in judgment and I want to rectify it immediately. I’m working with Simon & Schuster and my gallery partners to do just that. With my deepest regrets, Bob Dylan.”

It’s unknown whether plans to address the artwork situation would involve refunds — which could conceivably run into at least hundreds of thousands of dollars — or the less costly option of providing replacement prints that are truly hand-signed, if Dylan is now up to it — or some other unknown option. The “Philosophy of Modern Song” snafu, meanwhile, has already been addressed, with customers who bought the $600 limited edition of 900 books having already been refunded this week by Simon & Schuster.

Dylan’s reps did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Castle Galleries’ statement, also posted on Facebook, reads: “We were informed late yesterday that during the Covid 19 pandemic Bob Dylan used an autopen to sign several of his limited edition prints rather than his usual hand signature. These editions are: The Retrospectrum Collection prints and the Sunset, Monument Valley print which were released by us this year. We can confirm that all other editions were individually hand signed by Bob Dylan himself.”

The gallery’s statement continues: “We were entirely unaware of the use of autopen on these particular prints, and we sincerely apologize for the disappointment this may cause. We will be reaching out to each and every one of our collectors who purchased any print from the above editions to offer a solution to fully rectify the matter. Details on how we intend to resolve this matter will follow shortly.”

Castle Galleries’ statement on Bob Dylan’s signed art

As of Saturday morning in the U.S., prints of hundreds of different Dylan paintings were still being advertised on Castle Galleries’ website, and as “hand-signed,” ranging in price from about 2700 pounds for the lowest-priced individual print to £14,500.00 (or about $17,500 U,S. dollars) for a boxed set of six. Many, if not most, of these items predate the period in which the singer-artist says he began using the machine technology, but collectors will no doubt be scrambling to figure out which side of the divide their prior purchases land on.

Not all fans are upset about the revelations about the signatures. On Dylan’s Facebook post expressing regrets about the autopen signatures, the thousand-plus responses that had been added by Saturday morning were overwhelmingly in favor of the singer, saying the duplications were no big deal to start with and/or that he did a stand-up thing in publicly apologizing. Many sympathized with Dylan over the vertigo he described himself as having experienced in 2019. (The artist’s statement did not say whether he still suffers from the condition.)

The website Autograph Live has been integral in tracking what turned out to be easily detectible duplicate signatures on the books, although there were 17 different variants of the signature ultimately detected as users of the site compared notes and screenshots.

Soon after the book duplicates came to light, users began comparing signatures on their far more expensive art prints and seemingly finding some identical signatures, as well… albeit in what might be called auto-pencil. The general consensus on forums so far seems to be a belief that what Dylan said in his Facebook statement is true — that prints signed prior to 2019 or 2020 do appear to have individually signed.

Dylan’s statement that he has suffered from vertigo is the first time this has been revealed to the public. The singer continues to be active, having resumed his vigorous touring routine with a highly acclaimed tour.

The post that has become a resource for those looking to compare notes on the machine-generated signatures was created by Jason Hicks, who posts as Jason H on Autograph Live, who tells Variety, “Celebrities need to be taught a lesson to stop this autopen practice for good, for the sake of our hobby. I despise autopen with a passion, which is why I spent countless hours creating that post, comparing photos and organizing as much info as possible. … It’s been a sore thumb in this hobby since before I was born. If autopen technology advances, there’s a chance it may become undetectable, which is why we need to end its use ASAP.”

Van Morrison was recently accused in the forums of using autopen to sign CDs, although his management issued a statement denying it. Sinead O’Connor, however, owned up to doing it with her signed memoir, with no apologies. In both these instances, the disputed items were selling for less than $50, limiting the potential for uproar.

“The books which are signed,” said O’Connor, “I signed using a signature stamp as I was not in a position to hand write my name ten thousand times, which is how many I was asked to sign. My son was unwell as was I. So I stamped them myself. And it is my signature,” she contended. Nonetheless, many retailers withdrew O’Connor’s “autographed” books, which were selling for about $30, from sale.

One of the world’s most famous country singers was widely accused in forums last year of using autopen for a series of book and record releases; although there was never any public acknowledgement of the complaints, a publisher was said to have quietly taken returns and issued refunds on items that cost hundreds of dollars. Dylan’s publisher issued refunds without requiring consumers to return their books.

Autopen is commonly used by elected officials and executives, but its use in the world of celebrities often leads to speculation and doubt in the world of signed collectibles. A video showing how the commonly available machines operate:

The unfolding controversy over Dylan’s use of autopen for items advertised as “personally hand-signed” was magnified by the extent to which Simon & Schuster went to great pains to attest to the signatures’ authenticity in advertising and correspondence, even sending the $600 limited-edition “Philosophy of Modern Song” books out with a letter of authenticity signed by the publisher. Requests for refunds were initially refused, as the pubisher continued to attest to the signatures’ authenticity, before admitting that a “mistake” had been made Nov. 20 and refunding all purchases this past week.

If the publisher did refund the purchase price on the 900 books sold as hand-signed, that would amount to more than $500,000 in refunds given out this past week — not counting a separate run of 90 autographed books that had been advertised as up for sale in the U.K. The value of Dylan’s real signature was evident in listings on eBay that showed attempts to resell the supposedly autographed books for thousands of dollars each before the autopen news wiped out their value.

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How Brexit Is Still Impacting the British Art Market

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At first, it was frustration, then it was confusion, and now… well, no one really knows. It’s been more than five years since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union (EU) and the U.K. art market, like the country as a whole, is still wondering what Brexit actually means.

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Dealers are tired of talking about Brexit, but they also can’t ignore it as the British art market enters an uncertain 2023. That’s because, for collectors, gallerists, and dealers in the U.K., a combination of legislative, bureaucratic, and economic factors brought about by leaving the EU are making it more costly and less efficient to buy and sell art. The impact of Brexit, it turns out, is ongoing.

Not only does the U.K. begin the year facing the “worst and longest” recession of any country in the G7, but two staples of London’s art fair circuit, Masterpiece London and the Art & Antiques Fair Olympia, recently announced that they were canceling their summer editions. Both fairs cited escalating costs and a decline in the number of dealers, and both organizers mentioned the impact of Brexit as a contributing factor.

 

 

Installation view of Masterpiece London, 2022. Courtesy of Marc Straus.

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The cancellation of Masterpiece, which is owned by Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group, felt particularly significant.

“It’s very sad for the London art world—and London more generally,” said William Summerfield, head of sales and a specialist in modern British and 20th-century art at the auction house Roseberys. “The fair had a very particular style that was entirely ‘Chelsea’ and I think a lot of non-‘artworld’ buyers and visitors were more comfortable with [it] than some of the other, larger fairs.”

It’s unclear what the spillover of the fair’s cancellation will be for the British art market more broadly. Yet, as Summerfield cautioned, “losing a major yearly event always has a knock-on.”

But there’s also the question of what this says about the British art market today. There were already signs that the European presence at Masterpiece was wilting, with stands from the continent falling by almost 60% between 2018 and 2022, according to the Financial Times. The cancellation may have been a shock, but it wasn’t a huge surprise.

 

 

“The organizers were rather circumspect, talking about less international attendance, but what that translates into is that the Europeans aren’t coming anymore,” said Gregor Kleinknecht, a partner at Keystone Law and specialist in art law and dispute resolution for clients that include collectors, galleries, institutions, and dealers. “That’s both the exhibitors and the trade who would normally take up stands at the fair, but also the collectors. There is less incentive to come to London with all the complications after Brexit.”

Masterpiece is the latest art world example of how Brexit is crystallizing and exacerbating difficulties for an already febrile British economy, which can no longer blame COVID-19 lockdowns for its woes.

“Effectively, the U.K. has pulled out of the world’s largest and most effective trade agreement and, predictably, that has consequently made trade more difficult,” said James Ryan, CEO of Grove Gallery, which has spaces in London, Switzerland, New York, and Australia. “Quite aside from the unpleasantness of directly rebuffing those nations we do the most trade with, it has served to reduce that trade, including the trade in art and antiques—which has been negative for all those involved.”

 

 

Brexit legislation is impacting the art trade in a number of ways, touching on everything from taxation to employment all the way through to data protection, dispute resolution, and copyright. It’s led to heaps of red tape, all amounting to the basic fact that the free movement of people and goods between the U.K. and EU no longer exists in the fluid way that it once did. Art—and artists—have become more difficult and more expensive to move across the continent.

The British art market is still adjusting to this new normal, but the impact has already been drastic. In the two years since the U.K. formally left the EU’s single market and customs union, its share of the global art market has plummeted to its lowest level in a decade. Dealers complain about extra VAT (value-added tax) and shipping costs, which can mean spending more than four times than before on logistics. Smaller galleries are overburdened with extra paperwork. Christie’s has noted a “drop-off” in EU consignments in London, and collectors are being disrupted, too.

Fiorenzo Manganiello, an Italian-based private collector and patron of the Lian Foundation, told Artsy that the administrative aspect of importing works from London has become “cumbersome” since Brexit: “I have experienced logistical issues and work being blocked sometimes for months at a time,” he said.

 

 

EU countries such as France, meanwhile, are seizing on the fallout. Last year was a banner year for the French market: The country hosted a shiny new international art fair, enjoyed record-breaking results at its auction houses, and enacted policies that, ominously, aim to “take up the challenge of the French reconquest of the art market,” according to the Art Law Review.

So far, so bleak for the U.K. art market. But is it all disaster ahead? While everyone that Artsy spoke to for this piece acknowledged the difficulties caused by Brexit, many were quick to find optimism in the reputation and heritage of the British market, as well as its enviable ability to produce top artistic talent. Galleries continue to open, museums continue to host world-class shows, work continues to sell, and London remains a leading light of the international art market, they say.

“For me, London is the place where innovations in art still take place, surrounded by top-tier art schools and universities,” said Manganiello. Britain still remains a “top-tier destination” to acquire artworks, meet artists, and discover emerging galleries, he added, noting that he’s increasing the number of works from London galleries.

 

 

For those in the trade, meanwhile, a typically British attitude characterizes the current mood: Yes, Brexit is a pain, but things aren’t going to change anytime soon. We may as well get on with it.

“Frustrated? Yes. Pessimistic? Yes!,” said Katie Terres, COO of Artiq, a London-based art agency that curates collections around the world. While Brexit has added an extra layer of “frustration” and cost, the company, like many others, has had to adapt. “We’ve found ways of working with it and working within the regulations for our clients. We’re trying to make it as easy a process as possible.”

The cancellation of Masterpiece isn’t the first post-Brexit hurdle that the British art market has faced—others include EU funding cuts and unclear government guidance, to name a few—and it’s unlikely to be the last. But as long as the collectors keep coming, the auctions keep hammering, and the galleries keep selling, there’s no reason to write off Britain’s integral place in the art world just yet.

Arun Kakar

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Metro Vancouver art instructor found not guilty of child molestation, despite judge’s concerns with case

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A Metro Vancouver art instructor has been found not guilty of molesting a young student, despite the judge ruling that she strongly suspected the accused touched the girl “under her pants as she described”.

According to a Supreme Court of B.C. ruling, the teacher was arrested last March after the student reported the alleged incidents to her mother.

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The girl testified that during the course of art classes at the man’s home he put his hand down her pants, under her underwear, and that he placed her hand on his penis, over his pants.

He was subsequently charged with touching a child (count one) and inviting a child to touch him (count two) for a sexual purpose — to which he pleaded not guilty.

The teacher said the only touching that occurred was to correct the student’s sitting position or posture as she drew and painted. He said he was a strict teacher who often admonished the student and had at one point put his hands on her torso to pull her back into her seat.

Justice Heather Holmes said the girl was a credible witness and that key areas of her testimony “had the ring of truth”.

“I accept (the student’s) evidence that (the teacher) touched her inside her pants, in the way she described, during the final Sunday lesson and on at least one other occasion, likely a number of other occasions.”

In reference to the alleged penis touching, Holmes wrote “(the student’s) uncertainty or discomfort in remembering or describing this conduct do not reduce the credibility of her evidence.

“However, together with the associated absence of detail, they leave her evidence about this allegation as little more than a bare assertion of the conduct she described, with a little context against which to assess its reliability.”

In conclusion, Holmes wrote that if she were to choose between the evidence of the student and evidence of the teacher regarding count 1, “I would conclude (the student’s) evidence is more credible and more reliable than (the teachers).

“However, that is not the task. For an accused person to be found guilty of a criminal offence, the evidence must establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard. It does not require absolute certainty, but it does require more than strong suspicion.

“The evidence in this case leaves me strongly suspecting that (the teacher) touched (the student) under her pants as she described. However, the evidence does not give me confidence on that point beyond a reasonable doubt. (The teacher’s) evidence is not compelling, for the reasons I have given, but I cannot reject it entirely. It leaves me with a reasonable doubt.”

As a result, the teacher was found not guilty on both counts.

The accused name, the location of the art studio and the ages of all parties have not been reported due to a publication ban put in place to protect the girl’s identity.

 

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Goalie mask art exhibit on display at Kelowna Rotary Centre for the Arts

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Madison Erhardt

Goalie masks are the centre of an art exhibit at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, all made by a former UBC Okanagan fine arts student.

Rylan Broadbent’s series, Behind my Mask, I am Secure is a collection of ceramic goalie masks. They are currently on display at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art.

“This whole journey started with wanting to engage with some of my hockey equipment. I have a Master’s of Fine Arts, so I am primarily an artist, but I also play hockey outside of this and I wanted to marry the two things together for this project.”

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The artist and goalie says it has been rewarding being able to put his artwork on display.

“It has been really excellent to put the mask in front of people. To me that sort of completes the circle of spending all that time making the piece and then it is really rewarding actually put it in front of people,” Broadbent said.

He says his artwork took three months to complete.

“I started with one of my own goalie masks and took it all apart. I ended up making a plaster mould of it and then taking clay and pushing that into the mould then basically pulling masks back out and then finding ways to engage with them to open up different doors,” he added.

Broadbent hopes maybe one day an NHL goalie may call him up to help create a mask.

“I certainly wouldn’t hesitate if one of them wanted to pick one up and it would be great to get a goalie’s reaction.”

The hockey lover says he plans on expanding his exhibit in the near future.

The masks are on display until March 11.

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