News & Links
If you're interested in learning more about Morrisseau art authenticity issues, or about us, here are some useful links.
(June 19, 2023)
Mark Solomon, Senior Advisor to the President on Reconciliation and Inclusion at Seneca College, asked Morrisseau Art Consulting, Inc. to announce the authenticity of their purported Norval Morrisseau artwork this past week. APTN was there to cover the story and it was broadcast on the APTN National News on June 19, 2023. Watch the broadcast.
(June 16, 2023)
How to spot a fake Norval Morrisseau
An Ontario art expert says the recent rise in forgeries of renowned Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau is nothing short of cultural appropriation. “It’s a form of colonization when people come along, and I can say it, a lot of the people who are allegedly involved in this are white people who’ve come along and are taking liberties with and stealing the message, the soul of this great Indigenous artist,” Jonathan Sommer said. Sommer is a Toronto-based lawyer and he is also the CEO of Morrisseau Art Consulting.
Globe & Mail
(June 8, 2023)
Inside the strange legal sideshow that helped fuel the Norval Morrisseau art forgery scandal
The elderly couple embraced in the courtroom until security staff had to separate them.
“Why did they keep us apart so long?” sobbed 82-year-old John Goldi, as he stooped to hug his wife, Joan, in a wheelchair. “I love you,” said Joan, aged 80.
They had spent the previous seven nights in Ontario provincial jail awaiting a contempt of court hearing, one of the strange legal side-shows originating from what police are calling the biggest case of art fraud in Canadian history.
In March, investigators with the Thunder Bay Police and Ontario Provincial Police arrested eight people for allegedly counterfeiting between 4,500 and 6,000 pieces of art credited to Norval Morrisseau, an Indigenous artist who died in 2007. With an average Morrisseau going for $15,000, the value of alleged forgeries could approach $100-million, police said.
The Goldis were not among those implicated in the fraud, but their ample legal problems are directly linked to the authenticity war over Morrisseau’s work. Online and in court, the Goldis have for years declared themselves defenders of Morrisseau’s legacy, attacking anyone who dared to speak out about fake paintings. In their view, the forgery claims, which date back to the mid-nineties, were part of a grander conspiracy, cooked up by a cabal of art elitists who wanted to drive up Morrisseau prices by declaring vast swaths of the artist’s oeuvre fake. As former award-winning documentarians who worked with the likes of author and broadcaster Linden MacIntyre, they held themselves out as fearless truth-tellers – most notably on their blog, TheNorvalMorrisseauHoaxExposedBlog.com.
“This blog searches out and scorches those people in prominent positions whose racist participation in promoting an art fraud have undermined the public trust in the integrity of the art and artists of Canada’s Indigenous people,” John wrote on the site’s “Credo” page.
This April, five years after those words appeared online, the Goldis sat in court and received their own scorching from Justice David Corbett, who called their efforts to evade the court “a disgrace” and went on to remind them of all they’d lost during their self-destructive battle: the blog had been shut down; they owed roughly half a million dollars for defamation; their house was about to be auctioned off by the sheriff’s office.
CBC Nova Scotia
(May 28, 2023)
Some art experts are cautioning that the soaring value of Maud Lewis paintings will make the Nova Scotia folk artist's work more attractive for fraudsters to replicate. Making Maud frauds isn't new, with allegations dating back decades. One of the people accused of making forgeries of her work was her husband, Everett Lewis, after Maud's death in 1970.
The Agenda with Steve Paikin
(April 19, 2023)
Episode: Restoring Norval Morrisseau's Legacy
In the wake of arrests in the Norval Morrisseau art fraud, what becomes of the legacy of the artist who is at the centre of this case? Musician Kevin Hearn took us through his journey from Morrisseau purchase to fake art revelations in the TVO documentary, "There Are No Fakes." He is now on a mission to restore authenticity and integrity to Morrisseau's legacy. So too is his lawyer Jonathan Sommer of Morrisseau Art Consulting.
Ontario Provincial Police
(March 3, 2023)
The Ontario Provincial Police and the Thunder Bay Police Service have arrested eight people for their involvement in the apparent fraudulent manufacturing and distribution of artwork purported to be that of Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau. More than 1,000 alleged fraudulent paintings, prints and other artworks have been seized. Some of these paintings sold for tens of thousands of dollars to unsuspecting members of the public who had no reason to believe they weren't genuine. A media conference was held on March 3, 2023 at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia to announce the new developments.
(March 3, 2023)
Police call Anishinaabe art forgery world’s biggest art fraud
Thousands of fake versions of paintings by acclaimed Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau were sold in what Ontario police are calling the world's biggest art fraud. The years-long investigation led to 40 charges against eight people including the artist’s own nephew.
(March 3, 2023)
Lawyer and Morrisseau Art Consulting, Inc. CEO Jonathan Sommer interviewed on the evening of March 3, 2023 in regards to the Ontario Provincial Police news conference announcing arrests from the investigation of fraudulent Norval Morrisseau artworks and the seizure of over 1000 alleged fraudulent paintings.
(March 6, 2023)
CBC's SUPERIOR MORNING host Mary-Jean Cormier interviews Norval Morrisseau fraud lead investigator Detective Sergeant Jason Rybak of the Thunder Bay Police Services.
DS Rybak discusses their investigation.
(March 3, 2023)
More than 1,000 paintings were seized and eight people face a total of 40 charges resulting from a years-long police investigation into the forgery of artwork by Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau.
The Art Newspaper
(March 8, 2023)
Canadian police uncover 'biggest art fraud in world history'
Eight suspects are arrested and more than 1,000 works seized following investigation into forgeries of paintings by the Ojibwe artist Norval Morrisseau
(June 28, 2021)
More lawsuits pending over fake Norval Morrisseau art.
Lawyer Jonathan Sommer wants to hear from others who want to join an action. Article featuring Morrisseau Art Consulting, Inc. CEO Jonathan Sommer.
(September 4, 2019)
Win for Barenaked Ladies band member over alleged fake Morrisseau.
“False representation,” deliberate “elusiveness” and “elements of civil fraud” perpetrated by gallery owner. Article featuring Morrisseau Art Consulting, Inc CEO Jonathan Sommer.
(September 5, 2019)
Court’s New Morrisseau Forgery Decision a “Big Warning to Art Dealers.”
Art dealing in Canada may become more transparent, some people hope, in the wake of a groundbreaking court decision issued this week. Article featuring Morrisseau Art Consulting, Inc. CEO Jonathan Sommer.
(September 3, 2019)
Barenaked Ladies musician awarded $60,000 in legal battle over painting.
Toronto gallery must now pay tens of thousands of dollars to a Canadian musician who alleged he was sold a fake painting purported to be by the renowned Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau. Ontario’s top court says the trial judge made several errors in dismissing the legal action by Kevin Hearn, a member of the Barenaked Ladies, against the Maslak-McLeod Gallery.
(May 25, 2018)
Barenaked Ladies musician who claims he was sold fake Morrisseau painting loses lawsuit.
The judge was unable to determine whether the painting Spirit Energy of Mother Earth, bought in 2005 by Barenaked Ladies musician Kevin Hearn, is a true Morrisseau. Claims of an art-fraud ring selling fakes attributed to legendary Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau have long tarnished his legacy and deflated the value of his work, and the art world was looking to an Ontario court case to finally settle things. But in a ruling issued Thursday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan declared he is unable to determine whether the painting Spirit Energy of Mother Earth, bought in 2005 by Barenaked Ladies musician Kevin Hearn, is a true Morrisseau.
(April 18, 2018)
Art world awaits court decision on alleged fake Norval Morrisseau painting. Since the early 2000s, persistent allegations of a fraud ring peddling fake Norval Morrisseaus have cast suspicion on countless paintings hanging in public galleries and in private collections.
(November 19, 2016)
The Van Gogh sketchbook dispute: Why it's so hard to verify art
A dispute this week over whether drawings in a recently found sketchbook were really by Vincent Van Gogh underlines the emotionally charged and often uncertain nature of art authentication, say some experts.
(February 3, 2014)
Barenaked Ladies’ keyboardist suing in what may be the biggest art forgery case in Canadian history.
If true, the allegations by Barenaked Ladies’ keyboardist Kevin Hearn and tenor John McDermott could well signal one of the largest cases of art fraud in Canadian history. According to a lingering — but never proven — accusation in the Canadian art world, there is a well-organized band of forgers in Thunder Bay, Ont., who have spent more than a decade churning out a lucrative supply of fakes in the style of Norval Morrisseau, arguably Canada’s most famous Aboriginal artist. If true, it could well signal one of the largest cases of art fraud in Canadian history.
(February 7, 2006)
Morrisseau has defeated the demons.
The press conference for Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist, at the National Gallery of Canada last week, was one of those surreal affairs that sometimes transpire in the art world, moments where the spectacle of the museum, the artist and the public is almost as fascinating as the art on display.
There, seated in front of his huge, vividly colourful work Androgyny, the artist sat slumped in his wheelchair. His body, at 73, has absorbed a lot of punishment; the horrors of sexual abuse during his residential-school years in Port Arthur, Ont. (now part of Thunder Bay), the ravages of an enduring alcoholism that drove him to live for a while on the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the late 1980s, and the final indignities of Parkinson's disease, which has left his facial features limp and hanging. Talking is no longer really an option.
At his feet, a swarm of photographers crouched to get their shots of the famed Anishinabe artist. Some lay sprawled at his feet, propped on their elbows the better to wield their heavy lenses. They were pulling out all the stops, going for the most dramatic view of the artist's weather-beaten, crumbling frame, a figure that many might see as embodying the tragic, broken figure of the Indian in contemporary society. These pictures would be worth a lot. It made you want to look away.
In truth, behind the mask of his Parkinsonism, Morrisseau was having a great moment, long awaited and fully savoured, at least according to his adoptive daughter-in-law, Michele Vadas. When her husband, Gabe, stepped in after a few minutes to ask Morrisseau if he had had enough, he indicated that he had not.
(April 23, 2005)
The voice over the telephone line is no more than a slurred mumble. But the thoughts behind the words seem clear, and occasionally the words themselves spill forth in an articulate flow.
"The only thing I think about is to paint. I just want to paint. There are things in my head that I'd like to get out, but right now it can't happen."
The words are those of Norval Morrisseau, at 73 perhaps the most famous first nations painter in Canada, the man whose revolutionary, colour-packed synthesis of native mythology and personal expression pushed him into the mainstream of Canadian art and gave birth to an entire generation of painters emboldened by his themes and bravura brushwork.
Next February, the National Gallery will unveil a three-month retrospective of 60 Morrisseau works. While the National has previously included Morrisseau in some group shows, and holds three of his acrylics in its permanent collection (compared to the 100 paintings and drawings by Lawren Harris), the 2006 exhibit will mark the first time a first nations artist (as opposed to an Inuit) has been given a solo showcase in the National's 126-year history. The long delay has been a reflection of "the historical ambivalence toward native art at the gallery," says curator Greg Hill.
It's an ambivalence he hopes his exhibition will transcend by showing Morrisseau as a "prominent figure within the art history of this country as a whole."
Yet the Ojibwa artist and self-described shaman-trickster hasn't produced any new, commercially viable art in more than three years. He's living far from the Northern Ontario wilderness that originally inspired his art, in an extended care facility in Nanaimo, B.C., which has been his home since 1999. Severe Parkinson's disease and a stroke resulting, in part, from years of debilitating alcohol and drug abuse, as well as double knee-replacement surgery, have brought Morrisseau's vaunted productivity -- estimated by some to total more than 9,000 paintings -- to a halt, while confining his slumped body to a wheelchair. With no new art likely to enter the market between now and his death, whatever works out there now with a Morrisseau signature are all the more valuable.
But how many of them are real Morrisseaus? A fierce brawl has broken out in part over just that question, with charges related to forgeries, market manipulation and issues of authentication being hurled back and forth across the country. Morrisseau claims forgeries of his work have been "a problem for a long time." But it's in the last three years that disputes over what is or is not a Morrisseau have become especially intense -- so much so that a Toronto auctioneer who once sold Morrisseaus recently warned that the wariness those disputes are sowing "could kill the entire market."