Saturday, January 30, 2010

Propaganda, how the Art Gallery of Alberta hopes to obscure the truth behind their exhibition of non-disclosed Degas forgeries

NOTE: Footnotes are enclosed with { }.
Updated: January 30, 2010 8:50PM EST




















The above, titled "Cheval marchant au pas releves,"{1} is one of forty non-disclosed Degas bronze forgeries in the Art Gallery of Alberta's EDGAR DEGAS, Figures in Motion exhibition.

Edgar Degas -never-, in his lifetime, cast any of his work into bronze.

That fact is not disputed.

Twelve of the museums, loaning work to the AGA's (short for Art Gallery of Alberta) January 28, 2010 -May 30, 2010 EDGAR DEGAS, Figures in Motion exhibition, are members of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

That fact is not disputed.

The Association of Art Museum Directors endorses the College Art Association's 1974 ethical guidelines on sculptural reproductions, which in part states: “All bronze casting from finished bronzes, all unauthorized enlargements, and all transfers into new materials, unless specifically condoned by the artist, all works cast as a result of being in the public domain should be considered as inauthentic or counterfeit. Unauthorized casts of works in the public domain cannot be looked upon as accurate presentations of the artist’s achievement. Accordingly, in the absence of relevant laws and for moral reasons, such works should: -- Not be acquired by museums or exhibited as works of art.”{2}

That fact is not disputed.

Disappointingly, the AGA's deputy director/chief curator Catherine Crowston's response (copy below), to this scholar's published "allegations" that their EDGAR DEGAS, Figures in Motion exhibition contained 40 non-disclosed Degas bronze forgeries, was to obscure these contentious issues of authenticity by distributing, to the print, radio and television media, "a systematic dissemination of doctrine, rumor or selected information to promote or injure a particular doctrine, view or cause"{3} which is one legal definition of -propaganda-.

SUMMARY
Therefore, in response to the AGA's deputy director/chief curator Catherine Crowston's written response (in blue) to this scholar's published allegations, the ten key points that will be briefly documented in this monograph are:
1) Degas Never Worked in Wax,
2)
Reproductions are Not Sculptures,
3)
Editions Not Limited to Twenty-Two,
4)
Keeping Her Story Straight,
5)
The Dead Don't Sculpt,
6)
Artists Have Cast Their Own Work,
7) Posthumous Waxes Make Posthumous Forgeries,
8)
When All Things Fail, Throw in Some Red-Herrings,
9)
Posthumous Forging in Bronze Results in Forgeries, and
10)
Suspension of Disbelief.



"There is much discussion in the world of art about the status of bronze sculptures cast following an artist’s death. This discussion certainly applies to the posthumous casting of Edgar Degas’s wax sculptures into bronze — 40 examples of which are featured in the exhibition EDGAR DEGAS: Figures in Motion at the Art Gallery of Alberta."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

1. DEGAS NEVER WORKED IN WAX
Repeatedly misleading the news media into believing Degas worked in wax, the AGA's deputy director/chief curator writes of the "casting of Edgar Degas wax sculptures into bronze."

Edgar Degas -never- worked exclusively in wax, much less for casting in bronze.

This is confirmed in Daphne S. Barbour and Shelly G. Strum’s “The Horse in Wax and Bronze” essay published in the National Gallery of Art’s 1998 Degas at the Races catalogue. On page 180, 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.”{4}

2. REPRODUCTIONS ARE NOT SCULPTURES
Since, -cast- by definition means "to reproduce an object, such as a sculpture by means of a mold,"{5} resulting in bronze reproductions, the AGA's deputy director/chief curator exposes a lack of connoisseurship when she misrepresents, at best, posthumous -bronze reproductions- as "bronze sculptures."

WHAT IS CONNOISSEURSHIP?
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.”{6}




"After Degas’ death in 1917, 150 wax statuettes—some intact, others unfinished or falling apart—were found by his family in his studio. The deterioration of many of the works was so severe that only 73 could be salvaged. Degas’ heirs, in consultation with the artist’s dealer Joseph Durand-Ruel, selected the A. A. Hébrard Foundry in Paris and master caster Albino Palazzolo to undertake the task of casting the surviving wax models into bronze. Degas’ family authorized the Foundry to mold and cast 22 sets of the 73 works. These authorized casts all bear the original stamp of the Hébrard Foundry and a work number (1-73) and an edition number designation (A-T). The two additional proofs were reserved for the caster and for Degas’ heirs."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

3. EDITIONS NOT LIMITED TO TWENTY-TWO
Aside the AGA's deputy director/chief curator repeated misleading mantra of "casting the surviving wax models into bronze," if the Hebrard Foundry was authorized to "mold and cast 22 sets of the 73 works" writes deputy director/chief curator, why is the so-called "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" bronze listed on page 265 of Joseph S. Czestochowski's Degas Sculpture catalogue as: “Editions: 29 casts known and located (cast 1922-1937 or later)?”{7}

Did someone lose count or is the AGA's deputy director/chief curator and others counting on no one noticing?



"In order to preserve the original wax sculptures, Palazzolo made a second set of waxes, which were used to produce the authorized bronze casts. An additional sculpture, number 74, was cast in the 1950s."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

4. KEEPING HER STORY STRAIGHT
Once again, aside Degas never worked exclusively in wax, AGA's deputy director/chief curator seems to have a hard time keeping her story straight when she contradicts her prior written statement: "casting the surviving wax models into bronze" when she now writes: "Palazzolo made a second set of waxes, which were used to produce the authorized bronze casts."

If Palazzolo posthumously made a "second set of waxes" used for casting in bronze, whose fingerprints are on them?

PALAZZOLO FINGERPRINTS IN BRONZES
This is answered on page 32 in the Joseph S. Czestochowski’s and Anne Pingeot’s 2002 Degas Sculptures, Catalogue Raisonne of the Bronzes catalogue, where the Musee d’Orsay curator Anne Pingeot wrote: “{Jean}Adhemar {Art Historian} continued: “I asked M. Palazzolo if he would be able to recognize a false Degas bronze. Smiling, he said that he could, because he knew where to find his own fingerprints on the originals.”{8}

Yet, in a Edmonton Journal's January 28, 2010 "Degas collection specially assembled for opening" article by Liz Nicholls, the reporter quotes the AGA's EDGAR DEGAS, Figures in Motion exhibition curator Ann Dumas stating: "even the bronzes have a slightly rough, tactile quality. You can see the imprint of Degas's fingers and thumbs."{9}

If the founder Palazzolo's fingerprints by admission are in his posthumous waxes that were subsequently forged into bronze, how could a "Degas scholar" Ann Dumas not know that fact, much less be able tell the difference between Palazzolo and Degas' fingerprints?

FINGERPRINTS APPEAR INDISTINCT OR BLURRED
That may be answered by the National Gallery of Canada's published 1988 Degas catalogue. On page 609, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's curator Gary Tinterow wrote: "the manufacture of the final edition of bronzes, because with each of the two generations after the original model there was inevitably a significant loss of precision - fingerprints - appear indistinct or blurred in the final edition of the bronzes."{10}

Unfortunately, when it comes to this EDGAR DEGAS, Figures in Motion exhibition, fingerprints are not the only thing being blurred.



"At the time that these works were created, all bronze sculptures by an artist such as Degas, would have been made by artisans in foundries and completed by those craftsman who would determine the detailing from the original wax or plasters."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

5. THE DEAD DON'T SCULPT
How self-serving and nonsensical is AGA deputy director/chief curator's written statement that "All bronze sculptures by an artist such as Degas would have been made by artisans" since Edgar Degas was dead when they were forged in bronze.

The dead don't sculpt, the dead don't cast in bronze and reproductions by artisans are not sculptures.



"Whether the artist was dead or alive at the time of the bronze casting, they would have all had the same distance from the actual casting process. The Degas bronzes featured in the AGA exhibition are all editions of the original wax sculptures."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

6. ARTISTS HAVE CAST THEIR OWN WORK
Aside the continuous misleading mantra that Degas worked in wax, and despite what the AGA's deputy director/chief curator would have the public believe, much less believes herself, 19th/20th-century artists Antonie Louis Barye (1795-1875) and Medardo Rosso (1858-1928) are at least two examples of sculptors who actually cast their own work in bronze.

This can be confirmed, about Antoine Louis Barye, in Pierre Kjellberg's 1994 Bronzes of the 19th Century publication. On page 58, the author wrote: "Beginning in 1838, Barye himself made the first castings of his works."{11}

As for Medardo Rosso, in the Harry Cooper & Sharon Hecker 2003 Medardo Rosso, Second Impressions catalogue published by Harvard Art Museums, Sharon Hecker wrote: "Rosso's gesture was equally, if differently, modern. In retrieving and redefining the role of the founder, he made casting part of his artistic endeavor, an expression of his subjectivity."{12}

Additionally, as noted earlier, even though the Art Gallery of Alberta is not a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors, twelve of the museums, loaning work to EDGAR DEGAS, Figures in Motion exhibition, are. As members of the Association of Art Museum Directors, they endorses the College Art Association's 1974 ethical guidelines on sculptural reproductions which in part states: "all transfers into new materials, unless specifically condoned by the artist, all works cast as a result of being in the public domain should be considered as inauthentic or counterfeit."{13}

So, aside the dead don't condone anything, the AGA's deputy director/chief curator is, by omission, condoning counterfeits loaned by museums in violation of their own endorsed ethical guidelines.



"The works come from the original Hébrard foundry, and are considered by experts to be authorized Degas works. They are clearly labeled within the exhibition at the AGA with the model date (the date of the creation of the original wax) and the casting date (the date of the bronze casting)."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

7. POSTHUMOUS WAXES MAKE POSTHUMOUS FORGERIES
Since, the AGA's deputy director/chief curator admits in writing that the bronzes were cast from waxes posthumously made by the founder Palazzolo and not from anything Degas actually created, does the museum's label list the dates for the Palazzolo made posthumous waxes used for casting in bronze or does it misleadingly list the dates for Degas' mixed-media models not used for casting?

Either way, posthumous waxes makes posthumous forgeries.



"Similar discussions about the authenticity of bronze editions have been raised with other artists, such as Auguste Rodin and Alberto Giacometti. In his will for example, Rodin authorized the French government to reproduce sculptures from his original plasters after his death, the rights for which were granted to the Musée Rodin. Posthumous Rodin works, termed “original editions,” have been cast and issued by the Musée Rodin since that time."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

8. WHEN ALL THINGS FAIL, THROW IN RED HERRINGS
In a blatant attempt to muddle these contentious issues of authenticity the AGA's deputy director/chief curator threw in red-herrings.

On page 1282 of the Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, -red herring- is defined as: "An irrelevant legal or factual issue."{14}

First, Auguste Rodin actually gave the State of France in his 1916 Will, “notwithstanding the transfer of artistic ownership authorized to the State of M. Rodin, the latter expressly reserves for himself the enjoyment, during his life, of the reproduction rights of those objects given by him.”{15}

On the other hand, Edgar Degas expressed stated to Francois Thiebault-Sisson as recounted in Wilken's essay: "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.”{16}

Does that sound like a guy who wants his work posthumously reproduced, much less in bronze?

Second, the Musee Rodin violates that 1916 Will by not reproducing directly from his original plasters. On the Musee Rodin's www.musee-rodin.fr website, Musee Rodin curator Antoinette Le Normaid-Romain wrote: “Consequently, whenever it is decided to release a new ‘subject,’ a copy is first made from the old mould which can be sent without risk to the foundry where it undergoes the necessary preparations for casting. It is coated with an unmoulding agent, usually in a dark colour, and cut, before being cast again. This practice not only ensures absolute fidelity to the original but also preserves the old plasters which are obviously more valuable since they were made during the lifetime of Rodin.”{17}

Therefore, the Musee Rodin, by not reproducing from Auguste Rodin's original models, is directly violating his expressed wishes in his 1916 Will where he gave the State of France the "reproduction rights to objects given by him."

Unfortunately, Edgar Degas' legacy is fairing no better with posthumously forged waxes being cast into bronze and past off as sculptures by him, along with counterfeit "Degas" signatures applied to create the illusion he created them.

Third, “Article 1 of a joint decree by the Ministries of Culture and Finance, issued on 5 September 1978,” which regulates the internal administration of the Musee Rodin, in part, states: “The reproduction of works of Rodin and the editions sold by the Musee Rodin consists of; -Original editions in bronze. These are executed from models in terra cotta or in plaster realized by Rodin.”{18}

In other words, this 1978 French decree, the term “original” is used as an adjective to describe and separate the Musee Rodin’s posthumous “editions” of reproductions in bronze of Auguste Rodin’s terra cotta or plasters from others who legally may posthumously reproduce in bronze any of Auguste Rodin’s work that is in the public domain.

Therefore, these irrelevant facts that do not apply to Edgar Degas are being used by the AGA's deputy director/chief curator as the classic red-herrings to obscure the fact that all bronzes attributed to Edgar Degas are posthumous non-disclosed -forgeries-.



"While Degas investigated bronze casting and actually consulted with the Hébrard Foundry during his life-time, the final decision to proceed with the bronze casting was made by his heirs, after his death, in order to preserve the delicate wax works."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

9. POSTHUMOUS FORGING IN BRONZE RESULTS IN FORGERIES
Aside the AGA's deputy director/chief curator continuous misleading mantra about imaginary waxes that Edgar Degas did not work in, the possible lifetime consideration of casting his work into bronze by Degas does not give anyone a license to extrapolate that as a tacit approval by the dead for posthumous forging in bronze someone else's wax reproductions and passing it off as a Degas.



"Ultimately, the controversy surrounding the status of posthumous bronze casts is an important part of the history of these works. It need not, however, alter our appreciation of Degas’s innovative and exciting search for a better understanding of the figure in motion."
(Art Gallery of Alberta's Deputy Director and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston's after January 16, 2010 "written response - to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.")

10. SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF
So, is the admission paying public to just suspend disbelief that third-generation-removed posthumous forgeries with counterfeit signatures applied that are not limited as promoted and that violate the very ethical guidelines of the museums loaning them, so they can have, according to the AGA's deputy director/chief curator, an "appreciation of Degas's innovative and exciting search?"

This may be an inconvenient truth for the Art Gallery of Alberta and their deputy director/chief curator, but the dead are -not- innovative, much less searching.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, under their Getty Research, defines -counterfeit- as: "forgeries (derivative objects)" with a note stating: "Reproductions of whole objects when the intention is to deceive; includes sculptures cast without the artist's permission."{19}

Remember, Edgar Degas was dead when those posthumous waxes were forged into bronze.

The dead don't give permission.

CONCLUSION
Once again, the ten key points documented in this monograph, contradict the AGA's deputy director/chief curator Catherine Crowston's written response (in blue), and they are: 1) Degas Never Worked in Wax, 2) Reproductions are Not Sculptures, 3) Editions Not Limited to Twenty-Two, 4) Keeping Her Story Straight, 5) The Dead Don't Sculpt, 6) Artists Have Cast Their Own Work, 7) Posthumous Waxes Make Posthumous Forgeries, 8) When All Things Fail, Throw in Some Red-Herrings, 9) Posthumous Forging in Bronze Results in Forgeries, and 10) Suspension of Disbelief.

So, until the Art Gallery of Alberta's practices their -Mission- to be a: "museum dedicated to excellent and innovative practice in programming, stewardship and presentation of visual arts in Western Canada and across the nation,"{20} they will just be offering one thing and giving something else all together different that otherwise is known as the -bait & switch-.



To learn more about these contentious issues of authenticity, link to:

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

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



FOOTNOTES:
1. http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5170653
"Lot 322, Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Cheval marchant au pas relevés, Price Realized $346,676, Sale 7702, Impressionist/Modern, Day Sale, 5 February 2009, London, King Street, Lot Description Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Cheval marchant au pas relevés, signed, numbered and stamped with the foundry mark 'Degas 11/G CIRE PERDUE A.A. HEBRARD' (Lugt 658; on the base), bronze with brown patina, Height: 8 7/8 in. (22.6 cm.), The original wax model probably executed before 1881 and cast between 1919 and 1921 in an edition of twenty-two numbered A-T, plus two casts reserved for the Degas heirs and the founder Hébrard, marked HER and HER.D respectively, This work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition Degas: Figures in Motion to be held at the Art Gallery of Alberta from January to May 2010. Timed to coincide with the opening of their 84,000 square foot expansion, this will be the first Degas exhibition to be held in Western Canada.”

2. www.collegeart.org/caa/ethics/sculpture.html

3. p 1232, Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, Copyright © 1999, By West Group, ISBN 0-314-22864-0


4. © 1998 National Gallery of Art ISBN 0-300-07517-0

5. © 1991 by Bena Mayer, ISBN 0-006-461012-8 (pbk.)

6. rubens.anu.edu.au/htdocs/teach/eah/

7. © 2002 International Arts and The Torch Press ISBN 0-9716408-07

8. Ibid

9.http://www.edmontonjournal.com/travel/Degas+collection+specially+assembled+opening/2493761/story.html

10. © National Gallery of Canada for the Corporation of the National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, 1988 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988 ISBN 0-88884-581-2 (National Gallery of Canada)

11. © Schiffer Publishing. Ltd., Library of Congress Catalog Number: 94-66376

12. Copyright © 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved., ISBN 1-891771-31-1 (pbk. :alk paper)

13. www.collegeart.org/caa/ethics/sculpture.html

14.
Copyright © 1999, By West Group, ISBN 0-314-22864-0

15. p 285, (Former Musee Rodin curator) Monique Laurent’s “Observations on Rodin and His Founders” essay, Copyright 1981 © Rodin Rediscovered, ISBN 0-89468-001-3 (pbk.).

16. p 95, “Degas Bronzes?” article by Roger J. Crum, College Art Association’s published spring 1995 Art Journal

17. HOW TO FIND THIS MUSEE RODIN QUOTE:
First, go to the www.musee-rodin.fr/welcome.htm website,
then under “Contents on the left column click on “Collections,”
once on new screen click on the “Meudon” button,
then scoll down new screen till you reach the photograph of
“Assemblage of two figures of Even and crouching women”
and then count fourteen lines down for the quote.

18. p 281, Jean Chatelain’s “Original in Sculpture,” Copyright 1981 © Rodin Rediscovered ISBN 0-89468-001-3 (pbk)

19.http://www.getty.edu/vow/AATFullDisplay?find=counterfeit&logic=AND&note=&english=N&prev_page=1&subjectid=300121305

20. http://www.youraga.ca/about-aga/our-mission/



The AGA's Unedited Version in totality:

I wanted to send you a written response from our Deputy Director/Chief Curator, Catherine Crowston in response to the allegations by Gary Arseneau.

There is much discussion in the world of art about the status of bronze sculptures cast following an artist’s death. This discussion certainly applies to the posthumous casting of Edgar Degas’s wax sculptures into bronze — 40 examples of which are featured in the exhibition EDGAR DEGAS: Figures in Motion at the Art Gallery of Alberta.

After Degas’ death in 1917, 150 wax statuettes—some intact, others unfinished or falling apart—were found by his family in his studio. The deterioration of many of the works was so severe that only 73 could be salvaged. Degas’ heirs, in consultation with the artist’s dealer Joseph Durand-Ruel, selected the A. A. Hébrard Foundry in Paris and master caster Albino Palazzolo to undertake the task of casting the surviving wax models into bronze. Degas’ family authorized the Foundry to mold and cast 22 sets of the 73 works. These authorized casts all bear the original stamp of the Hébrard Foundry and a work number (1-73) and an edition number designation (A-T). The two additional proofs were reserved for the caster and for Degas’ heirs. In order to preserve the original wax sculptures, Palazzolo made a second set of waxes, which were used to produce the authorized bronze casts. An additional sculpture, number 74, was cast in the 1950s.

At the time that these works were created, all bronze sculptures by an artist such as Degas, would have been made by artisans in foundries and completed by those craftsman who would determine the detailing from the original wax or plasters. Whether the artist was dead or alive at the time of the bronze casting, they would have all had the same distance from the actual casting process. The Degas bronzes featured in the AGA exhibition are all editions of the original wax sculptures. The works come from the original Hébrard foundry, and are considered by experts to be authorized Degas works. They are clearly labeled within the exhibition at the AGA with the model date (the date of the creation of the original wax) and the casting date (the date of the bronze casting).

Similar discussions about the authenticity of bronze editions have been raised with other artists, such as Auguste Rodin and Alberto Giacometti. In his will for example, Rodin authorized the French government to reproduce sculptures from his original plasters after his death, the rights for which were granted to the Musée Rodin. Posthumous Rodin works, termed “original editions,” have been cast and issued by the Musée Rodin since that time. While Degas investigated bronze casting and actually consulted with the Hébrard Foundry during his life-time, the final decision to proceed with the bronze casting was made by his heirs, after his death, in order to preserve the delicate wax works.

Ultimately, the controversy surrounding the status of posthumous bronze casts is an important part of the history of these works. It need not, however, alter our appreciation of Degas’s innovative and exciting search for a better understanding of the figure in motion.

Sarah Hoyles
Media Relations & Communications Coordinator
T: 780.392.2468
C: 780.819.9993
F: 780.426.3105
youraga.ca

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