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N.S. government got duped buying 3 Maud Lewis paintings. Here’s how they learned the truth

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Months before the Nova Scotia government received confirmation that three Maud Lewis paintings it owned were fakes and admitted it publicly, the province had good reason to believe they were not painted by the famous Nova Scotia folk artist.

“These do look like fakes,” an official with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia wrote in an email to an official with Arts Nova Scotia, the organization that oversees the Nova Scotia Art Bank.

That program has purchased 2,400 works by Nova Scotia artists since its inception in the mid-1970s, including what it believed to be three Lewis paintings.

These paintings were purchased from the Herring Gull Gallery in Chester, N.S., in 1982, for $300 each, which was below the market rate of $500.

The province became aware the paintings might be fake last September because of CBC News.

A colourful Maud Lewis painting of a truck on a road is shown.
This Lewis painting sold for $350,000 at an auction in 2022. High prices for her work has renewed interest in forging her work. (Submitted by Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd. )

The broadcaster had learned of the potential forgeries while doing research for a Lewis story. The potential fakes included two hanging in the premier’s office.

CBC requested to view the paintings in the company of an art expert, but the province declined. That expert, Alan Deacon, would later be part of the process that determined three paintings the province owns were “not by the hand of Maud Lewis,” whose works sell for as much as $350,000 today.

While the province received official word in January 2023 the three paintings were fake, an Art Gallery of Nova Scotia official wrote in September 2022 that she thought they were forgeries.

“I speculate that they’re possibly done by [name redacted] they’re not bad and in person it would be easier to tell based on the paint and brushstrokes, as they are clearly derived from specific Maud paintings,” Shannon Parker, the Laufer Curator of Collections with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, wrote in a Sept. 12, 2022, email to an official from the Nova Scotia Art Bank.

In a separate email from the same day, Parker saw the paintings as a teaching tool.

“If nothing else, they’re still quite charming and if they’re fakes, they’re a great educational tool,” Shannon Parker wrote in another email to Lauren Williams.

A painting of a red sled being pulled by a horse, in a winter scene.
Sled is one of three Maud Lewis paintings purchased through the Nova Scotia Art Bank that turned out to be fake. (Submitted by Arts Nova Scotia)
A painting of white boats and seagulls in a harbour.
Boat is another one of the fakes the province bought under the Nova Scotia Art Bank program. (Submitted by Arts Nova Scotia)

CBC News obtained the emails through an access-to-information request to find out more about what the province knew about the potential fakes.

While the authenticity evaluation hadn’t taken place, Williams seemed resigned to the fact they were fake.

“It’s going to be so expensive to replace these with real ones!” she wrote in an email to Briony Carros and Christopher Shore, who both worked for Arts Nova Scotia, the organization that oversees the art bank program.

Paintings were taken for authentication in December

A Dec. 14, 2022, email from Williams to Parker with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, said the paintings were dropped off to Zwicker’s Gallery earlier in the week for authentication.

The Halifax gallery charged $175 per painting for the authentication. With taxes, the total came to $603.75 — roughly two-thirds the amount the province originally paid for the fakes.

A man sits at a table looking at a book of paintings.
Alan Deacon is an expert in the art of Maud Lewis. He was consulted as part of the process to determine the authenticity of three paintings owned under the Nova Scotia Art Bank program. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

One day before the province received official confirmation on Jan. 6, 2023, of the forgeries, CBC News learned the results of the examination and contacted the province for comment.

Officials weren’t impressed.

“It’s so unprofessional for Alan Deacon to reach out to the reporter. We haven’t even received report back from Ian Muncaster at Zwickers, but I assume he reached out to Alan for an opinion,” said an email from Carros to Shore.

When the province received the findings on Jan. 6, 2023, the owner of Zwicker’s Gallery, Muncaster, noted Deacon was consulted as part of the authentication process.

New fakes may be coming from Hungary

“While they are plausible images, they do not bear the features that one looks for in authentic paintings by Maud Lewis,” Muncaster wrote.

“As you are probably aware, there has been a forger of Maud Lewis’s work who has been working since shortly after her death in the summer of 1970. We estimate that he has produced somewhere in the order of 1,500 forgeries, which have been distributed over the years, mostly through auction houses in many parts of Canada.

Two men look at a number of paintings propped up on a table.
Buyer Chad Brown, left, and Ian Muncaster, owner of Zwicker’s Gallery in Halifax, look at some paintings by Lewis. The province hired Zwicker’s Gallery to authenticate three paintings it owns under the Nova Scotia Art Bank program. (Mary-Catherine McIntosh/CBC)

It is interesting to note that recently several very good forgeries of Maud Lewis paintings have turned up in the United States, that we believe are being produced in Hungary.”

In a Jan. 9, 2023, email to CBC Radio’s Information Morning, the province declined an interview to discuss the fakes. Instead, it sent along a statement, noting the paintings “were deemed likely not to have been painted by Maud Lewis” and have been removed from circulation.

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Exclusive | Abraham Lincoln painting featured at Hamptons art fair victim of heist: ‘Lessons learned’ – Page Six

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Exclusive | Abraham Lincoln painting featured at Hamptons art fair victim of heist: ‘Lessons learned’  Page Six

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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