Thursday, January 17, 2008

Degas in Bronze FRAUD at the Boca Raton Museum of Art

NOTE: Footnotes are enclosed with { }.


All so-called “Degas sculptures,”{1} in the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s upcoming Degas in Bronze, The Complete Sculptures exhibition, opening January 25, 2008, are “something that is not what it purports to be”{2} which is one legal definition of -fake-.

Edgar Degas has -never- seen any of these non-disclosed -fakes- because he was dead when they were made and dead men don’t sculpt.

Therefore, for the $20 price for each adult admission and other monetary considerations, the Boca Raton Museum of Art is making “knowing misrepresentation of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment”{3} which is one legal definition of -fraud-.

What evidence documents that all so-called “Degas sculptures” in bronze are -fake-, much less those coming to the Boca Raton Museum of Art in January 25, 2008?

In a Boca Raton News’ published July 12, 2007 “Jacksonville artist criticizes Degas exhibit coming to Boca Museum” article by Dale M. King, the editor quoted the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees President Michael H. Gora stating: “ Arseneau’s opinions regarding the Degas Bronzes are meaningless, and not shared by the major museums of the world, including. the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles and The Chicago Institute of Art, in Chicago, which currently display all or portions of the Degas bronzes.{4}”

Unfortunately, the facts contradict the Boca Raton Museum of Art Board of Trustees President Michael Gora’s statements.

First, on page 152, in the Art Institute of Chicago’s own published 1984 Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago catalogue by Richard R. Brettell and Suzanne Folds McCullagh, the authors wrote: “Because they were cast posthumously with neither the knowledge nor the supervision of the artist, Degas’s bronzes have a problematic existence as works of art....”{5}

Additionally, on page 152 in the Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago catalogue, Richard R. Brettell and Suzanne Folds McCullagh wrote: “Degas’s bronzes resemble the originals in form, but differ considerably in hue, density, and surface quality.... From all this, several conclusions can be drawn: First, Degas did not intend that the majority of this sculpture endure forever; second, he made extensive use of the medium for purposes of study; and third, by casting a wax into bronze, Hebrard was unable to translate the original’s real sculptural values.”{6}

This Boca Raton Museum of Art’s President’s skewed perspective is further undermined, on page 609 of the National Gallery of Canada’s published 1988 Degas catalogue, before the “Key to Abbreviations,” one of the eight participating exhibit curators Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gary Tinterow wrote: “The bronzes included in this exhibition, like those widely distributed throughout the world, are posthumous second-generation casts of the original wax sculptures by Degas.”{7}

Regrettably, despite the admission of that the so-called Edgar Degas “bronzes” are “second-generation casts,” the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gary Tinterow exposed a misconception that many in the museum, auction house and academia with or without intent perpetuate and that is Edgar Degas created “wax sculptures.”

Edgar Degas -never- worked exclusively in wax, rather he worked in mixed-media: cloth, cork, paper, plastine, wire and other material.

This is confirmed in the National Gallery of Art’s published 1998 Degas at the Races catalogue. On page 180 in Daphne S. Barbour’s and Shelly G. Strum’s “The Horse in Wax and Bronze” essay, these authors wrote: “Not a single sculpture has been found to be made exclusively of wax, and none was intended to be sacrificed and melted during lost-wax casting.”{8}

Therefore, Edgar Degas’ mixed-media sculptures could not be cast directly into bronze posthumous or otherwise because they were not lost-wax.

The actual waxes used to cast into bronze were the first-generation-removed reproductions made after Edgar Degas’ death in 1917. Those waxes were reproduced by the hand of the Hebrard founder Albino Palazzolo and his workers from their and others’ posthumously reconstructed and altered Edgar Degas mixed-media sculptures. The subsequent second-generation-removed bronzes reproduced were used as masters for reproducing the third-generation-removed surmoulages a.k.a. “chocolate bunnies,”{9} a derogatory term given for a bronze from a bronze by Columbia University Professor Rosalind Krauss.

So, what did Edgar Degas really want to happen after his death to his mixed-media sculpture?

This is answered on page 95 in a College Art Association’s published spring 1995 “art journal,” in a “Degas Bronzes?” article by Roger J. Crum, the author wrote: “In Wilken’s essay we read that in 1921 Francois Thiebault-Sisson recalled that Degas had once said: I modeled animals and people in wax for my own satisfaction, not to take to rest from painting or drawing, but to give more expression, more spirit, and more life to my paintings and drawings. They are exercises to get me started. My sculptures will never give that impression of completion that is the ultimate goal of the statue-maker’s trade and since, after all, no one will ever see these efforts, no one should think of speaking about them, not even you. After my death all that will fall apart by itself, and that will be better for my reputation. (p. 23).”{10}

In Paul Duro & Michael Greenhalgh’s published Essential Art History, -connoisseurship- is defined as: “that of the art expert able to distinguish between the authentic and non-authentic, for example between an original and a copy.”

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec,
La Clownesse Cha-u-Kao,
“Limited edition offset lithographs"

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec,
At The Moulin Rouge,
“Limited edition offset lithographs"

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any better in the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Museum Store.

The Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Museum Store is offering for sale, at “$1,515” each, two so-called Henri Toulouse-Lautrec “Limited edition offset lithograph{s}, {from an} edition of 1,000 - Signed in pencil in lower left by Count de Toulouse-Lautrec... Printed - January-April 1992.”{11}

The problem is original works of visual art such as lithographs, must be “wholly executed by hand by the artist”{12} and in 1992 Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who died in 1901, was some ninety-one years dead.

This factual perspective is confirmed by U.S. Customs which in part states a “lithograph”{13} must be “wholly executed by hand by the artist” and “excludes mechanical and photomechanical processes.”{14}

Additionally, under U.S. Copyright Law 106A, reproductions cannot be attributed to an artist, much less a dead one such as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Furthermore, under U.S. Copyright Law 101, for a “work of visual art” to be considered limited, it must be “signed and numbered by the artist” and not by another posthumously whether they be Toulouse Lautrec’s cousin or not.

Simply, dead men can’t wholly executed anything, much less sign and number.

How would the museum patron truly feel if they found out the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Museum Store deceive them when they offered for sale so-called Henri Toulouse-Lautrec "lithographs" for "$1,515" each but in reality sold them, at best, a non-disclosed poster?

On page 816-817 of Kluwer Law International’s published 1998 Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts, Third Edition by John Henry Merryman and Albert E. Elsen wrote about “Counterfeit Art.”{15}

Under the subtitle “Truth,” the authors wrote: “The most serious harm that good counterfeits do is to confuse and misdirect the search for valid learning. The counterfeit objects falsifies history and misdirects inquiry.”{16}

Additionally, under the subtitle “Resource Allocation,” the authors wrote: “Museum and art historical resources are always limited. What gets acquired, displayed, conserved and studied is the result of a continuous process of triage, in which some objects can be favoured only at the expenses of others. Counterfeit objects distort the process.”{17}

Finally, under the subtitle “Fraud,” the authors wrote: “There remains the most obvious harm of all: counterfeit cultural objects are instruments of fraud. Most are created in order to deceive and defraud, but even “innocent” counterfeits can, and often will, be so used. The same considerations of justice and social order that make deliberate fraud of others kinds criminal apply equally to fraud through the medium of counterfeit art...”{18}

Section 5 of the FTC Act prohibits “unfair---acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” In part, it states: “A seller’s failure to present complex technical data on his product may lessen a consumer’s ability to choose, for example, but may also reduce the initial price he must pay for the article.”{19}

Would the “consumer’s ability to choose” be undermined if they were -not- informed that the so-called “sculptures,” they are paying directly or indirectly to view, are, at best, reproductions?

Once again, as noted earlier, on page 670 of the Seventh Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, -fraud- is defined as: “A knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.”{20}

Would anyone that misrepresents a posthumous reproduction as an “work of visual art” ie. sculpture, for the price of admission, city-state-federal grants, corporate sponsorship, outright sales and tax write-offs, be committing fraud a.k.a. “a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment?”

The Boca Raton Museum of Art’s “Mission,” in part states: “the purpose of enhancing the appreciation and understanding of the visual arts.”{21}

As a member of the American Association of Museums{22}, the Boca Raton Museum of Art endorses the American Association of Museum’s “Guidelines on Exhibiting borrowed Objects”{23} which, in part, states: “Ensuring that the museum determines that there is a clear connection between the exhibition of the object(s) and the museum’s mission, and that the inclusion of the object(s) is consistent with the intellectual integrity of the exhibition.”{24}

In other words, how can the Boca Raton Museum of Art be “enhancing the appreciation and understanding of the visual arts,” when it comes to these so-called “Degas sculptures,” there is -none- in this exhibition?

In the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s original published 07-08_SeasonPreviewPR.pdf posted on their website under Press Room, it stated: “Degas in Bronze offers an extremely rare opportunity to view 73 sculptures, posthumously cast in bronze from Degas’ original composite and wax models.” {25}

You can’t order tickets on this pdf file.

Now, on the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s new -Flash- website, when you click on the “Degas in Bronze” exhibition title flashing on the screen or subtitle “Upcoming Exhibitions” their new “Boca Raton Museum of Presents its Exceptional Exhibition Degas in Bronze; the Complete Sculptures” release states: “Degas in Bronze offers a rare opportunity to view these 73 sculptures, cast in bronze from Degas's original composite and wax models.”{26}

This web page has a link to purchase tickets.

Is the exclusion of "posthumously" just a coincidence?

The Boca Raton Museum of Art posted “CALLING ALL EDUCATORS: Field Trip Grants Available to the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Special Exhibition, Degas in Bronze: The Complete Sculptures” release on their website. In part, it states: “This program is made possible by a Patron of the Arts who cares deeply about sharing the beauty and education of the visual arts with students and teachers.”{27}

Now compare these non-disclosed -fakes- in this exhibition to a student bringing something to class they didn’t create, much less sign and trying to pass it off as if they did and getting caught. What would happen to that student? They most certainly would get a “F" grade and if they were in college, possibly expelled.

So, should we hold Boca Raton Museum of Art to a lesser ethical standard than we hold our students to?

What needs to be accomplished is the full and honest disclosure of all reproductions as -reproductions- by all museums, auction houses and art dealers. If the Boca Raton Museum of Art will give full and honest disclosure for all reproductions as: -reproductions- it would allow museum patrons to give informed consent on whether they wish to attend an exhibit of reproductions, much less pay the price of admission

But if these objects are not reproductions by definition and law, but posthumous -fakes- with or without counterfeit signatures or inscriptions posthumously applied to create the illusion the artist created it, much less approved and signed it, then serious consequences of law may come into play for those who chose to misrepresent these -fakes- for profit.

The reputations and legacy of living and past artists, present and future museum art patrons and the art-buying public deserve the re-establishment of the obvious; that the living presence and participation of the artist to once again be required, as it always should have been, to create the piece of art attributable to the artist if indeed it is attributed to them, much less purported to have been signed by them.


DEGAS BRONZE FAKES, The ABCs of one of the largest...

Counterfeit Degas -Sculptures- at the National Gal...

COUNTERFEIT Degas Bronze Sculptures at the Frederi...

Degas bronze forgeries at the Art Gallery of Alber...


As an artist who creates original lithographs by drawing on a limestone block with a grease pencil who chemically treats the image so I can print my edition, I know what it takes to create artwork.

In 1985, my introduction to lithography accelerated my connoisseurship particularly when I started to personally experience the public’s misconceptions that lithographs, much less mine, were reproductions. At the time, it compelled me to not only explain to the public how I created a lithograph but to back it up with definitions, regulations and laws to support that concept that they were originals. As I was soon to discover too many artists and dealers in the marketplace also had those same misconceptions, resulting in their, with or without intent, misrepresentation of reproductions as lithographs.

Then in 1999, I discovered the misrepresentation of reproductions, much less fakes, as artwork was not exclusive to just artists, art dealers and galleries but also by a good majority of museums, cultural institutions, auction houses and academia. My initial naive attempts to bring that misrepresentation of reproductions as sculpture to the attention of these museums, cultural institutions, auction houses and academic professionals were almost always rebuffed, with very few exceptions, with some of the most nonsensical responses I have ever heard. For example, a director of major foundation refuted me when I said dead men don’t sculpt by stating: “they are posthumously cast but that doesn’t make them reproductions.”

Still, not quite believing what I was hearing, I thought there must be something they were not telling me and/or there was something I was somehow not understanding or was missing, even though I really didn’t think so at the time. Nevertheless, to answer those questions, I began researching extensively.

What my research uncovered was a good majority of the museums, cultural institutions, auction houses and academic, for more decades probably than can be counted, have, with or without intent, abuse terminology to the point that up is down and down is up. What I mean is artwork is obviously created by an artist, but now a good majority of those institutions and individuals act on the belief that the living presence of the artist is not required to create artwork.

Therefore, in closing, I feel morally obligated to briefly document as possible for the benefit of the public, in these dozen or so pages, the true facts behind the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s non-disclosed -fakes-, not to mention the serious questions of laws, ethics and regulations that are all but ignored by many museums, cultural institutions, auction houses and academia.

Gary Arseneau

2) p 617, Seventh Edition Black’s Law Dictionary, ISBN 0-314-22864
3) p 670, Ibid
5) Degas in The Art Institute of Chicago catalogue by Richard R. Brettell and Suzanne Folds McCullagh, ISBN 0-8109-0804-2
6) Ibid
7) National Gallery of Canada’s published 1988 Degas catalogue, ISBN 0-87099-519-7
8) Degas at the Races by Jean Sutherland Boggs, ISBN 0-300-07517-0 (cloth)
9) Rosalind E. Krauss’ “The Nasher collection” published 1997 Artforum International Magazine, Inc.
13) Ibid
14) Ibid
15) ISBN 90-411-0697-9
16) Ibid
17) Ibid
18) Ibid
20) p 670, ISBN 0-314-22864
24) Ibid


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