Fakes in the frame as artist fights back in court
• Chip le Grand
TOM Lowenstein has been chasing bodgie Blackmans for 10 years. Yesterday, for the first time, a Supreme Court judge declared two charcoal drawings carrying the name of the ageing master to be fakes. According to Mr Lowenstein, there are others out there.
According to Mr Lowenstein, there are others out there.
“It is not an epidemic but there are quite a number, and I think it is wrong for a person not to feel safe that when he goes a Blackman that it is actually a Blackman,” said Mr Lowenstein, the artist’s legal and financial adviser.
“You have got to follow the provenance. If someone says I got it from this fellow in the pub or I bought it on the internet, there is no guarantee that is a genuine work.”
Judge Peter Vickery yesterday said he had “no doubt” that two drawings valued as Blackman originals and a third work sold under the name of Blackman’s fellow “Antipodean” Robert Dickerson were forgeries.
In delivering a judgment in a civil case brought by Blackman against art dealer Peter Gant, Justice Vickery found Mr Gant breached the Fair Trading Act by engaging in conduct that was misleading or deceptive.
However, the judge did not award damages against Mr Gant, ruling there was no evidence the breach was not “innocent”.
Justice Vickery ordered the drawings to be handed over to the artists and destroyed within seven days.
“I am left in no doubt that the two works claimed to be by Charles Blackman, Street Scene with Schoolgirls and Three Schoolgirls, and the one work claimed to be by Robert Dickerson, Pensive Woman, were not by the hands of those artists,” the judge said.
The three works were bought by Melbourne businessman Robert Blanche. Mr Gant, a gallery owner and art valuer who trades as “Gallery Irascible — Peter Gant Fine Art”, sold the the fake Dickerson to Mr Blanche for $10,800 in 2005.
The following year, he valued the fake Blackmans, bought by Mr Blanche in 1999, as being worth a combined $22,000.
Doubts about the drawings first arose in 2008 when Mr Blanche invited Walter Granek, an expert in Blackman’s work, to view his collection. As soon as Mr Granek saw the Blackmans, he declared them poor fakes.
Mr Gant maintained the works were genuine but declined to give evidence in the case and called no witnesses.
Dickerson said the forgery of his work made him look stupid “because it is a very bad drawing, it looks incredibly bad”.
Blackman was unable to give evidence but Mr Lowenstein told the trial that fake Blackmans were “highly detrimental” to the artist’s legacy in Australian art and reduced the value of genuine Blackmans on the market.