Have you heard about the arrests regarding fake Morrisseau pieces? Read about the controversies and why The AGH was contacted by the OPP below!
Christine Braun, our Collections Department Lead, drafted this content to place on the gallery wall next to our Morrisseau pieces to add some contextual background to the collection. Unfortunately, the piece was too lengthy for the space, but just the right size for an AGH Magazine article.
Keep your eyes peeled for the condensed version up on our Gallery Level 2 walls. – SJ Rintjema
There have been many questions lately around the authenticity of works by Norval Morrisseau in public and private collections, and for very good reason.
In March 2023, eight people were arrested as the result of a long and complex investigation into fraudulent activity that for years had tarnished the artist’s formidable legacy with further arrests expected. The Ontario Provincial Police, along with police forces in Thunder Bay, seized more than 1,000 alleged fakes – paintings, prints and other media – which are the result of a large illegal scheme orchestrated by few and carried out by many.
The AGH has 116 works by Morrisseau in the permanent collection, 113 of which were donated to the gallery in 1985 by a group of lawyers who worked with and for the artist. While there is no documentation explicitly stating so, it has been long assumed that Morrisseau transferred these works – a selection of acrylic paintings on canvas, paper, wood and stone – to the lawyers in exchange for their representation and legal services.
When donated to the gallery the works were in various states of condition ranging from excellent to very poor. Smaller works on stretchers were in optimal condition but the unstretched paintings on canvas showed significant creasing, folding, indentation and curling, from improper storage. Due to what appeared to be irretrievable damage and an insurmountable fix to staff at the time, the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) was engaged to advise.
Because the image layers were somehow and perhaps miraculously intact, all attention was turned toward relaxing the creasing and folding of the supporting canvasses. CCI advised that the works be rolled onto tubes (face out) and stored as such for years in order to counteract the damage. Smaller works were sandwiched in between non-acidic boards such as foam core and rested that way. Many of the treated works are now on display in our permanent collection galleries on the second floor.
Aware of the investigation into fraudulent activity surrounding the works of Norval Morrisseau, the AGH was not surprised to be contacted by the OPP in early 2021, with a request to provide documentation regarding all works by the artist in the collection, including photos of both the front and back of each work. This work was readily completed and the information provided to the investigators, after which point it was confirmed that the authenticity of the works in the AGH permanent collection was not in question.