Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen sculptural forgery in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' "Once upon a Time... Impressionism" exhibition

 NOTE: Footnotes enclosed as: [FN ]

 
Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas , French, 1834-1917, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Modeled, 1880-1; cast 1919-21, Bronze, 99.1 cm, Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, c. 1921, 1955.45 
 http://www.clarkart.edu/museum/collections/impressionist/content.cfm?ID=31&marker=2&start=2

In the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' October 13, 2012 to January 20, 2013 Once upon a Time... Impressionism exhibition from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the so-called "Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen"[FN 1] is actually a non-disclosed posthumous [c. 1921] 3rd-generation-removed brass [not bronze] -forgery- with a counterfeit "Degas" signature inscribed on the wooden base that is falsely attributed to a dead Edgar Degas [d 1917].

Rhetorically, the dead don't sculpt, much less sign.

On page 661 of the Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, -forgery- is defined as: "the act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine."[FN 2]

As members of the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute are violating their own endorsed ethical guidelines for their museums, not to mention their gift shops, by exhibiting this non-disclosed posthumous [c. 1921] 3rd-generation-removed brass [not bronze] -forgery- with a counterfeit "Degas" signature inscribed on the wooden base for monetary considerations including but not limited to: adult admission fee of $8.70 to $17.40.

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."[FN 3]

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' director Nathalie Bondil and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's director Michael Conforti have no shame.

This monograph will document those facts.



These five references document Edgar Degas -never- worked in wax, -never- cast in bronze [much less brass], -never- signed his mixed-media models and thought if his mixed-media models were to fall apart after his death his reputation would better for it.

DEGAS' TRUE INTENT 
On page 95 of the 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).”[FN 4]

DEGAS NEVER CAST HIS SCULPTURE  
On page 180 in the National Gallery of Art’s published 1998 Degas at the Races catalogue,  in Daphne S. Barbour’s and Shelly G. Sturman’s “The Horse in Wax and Bronze” essay, these authors wrote: “Degas never cast his sculpture in bronze, claiming that it was a “tremendous responsibility to leave anything behind in bronze -- the medium is for eternity.”[FN 5]

2ND TO 3RD GENERATION REMOVED  
On page 78 of the “Degas; The Sculptures” essay by Hirshhorn Curator of Sculpture Valerie J. Fletcher, published in Ann Dumas and David A. Brenneman’s 2001 Degas and America The Early Collectors catalogue, the author wrote: “In 1919-20 Hebrard’s founder Albino Palazzolo, made a first set of {Degas} bronzes. -- Those 'masters' served to make molds for casting edition of twenty-two bronzes. Technically, all bronzes except the master set are surmoulages.”'[FN 6]

COUNTERFEIT DEGAS SIGNATURES  
On page 32-33 in Charles W. Milliard’s 1976 The Sculpture of Edgar Degas, the author wrote: “Each cast is stamped with the legend 'cire perdue A.A. Hebrard' in relief, and incised with the signature ‘Degas.’” Later on page 34, the author wrote: “At least some of the casts were set on wooden bases into which the signature “Degas” was burned.”[FN 7]

BRASS NOT BRONZE  
This metallurgical discovery is confirmed on page 26 of the National Gallery of Art’s published 2010 Edgar Degas Sculptures catalogue, in the “Degas’ Bronzes Analyzed” essay by Shelly G. Sturman and Daphne S. Barbour. In part, the authors wrote: “Analysis of the elemental surface composition of the National Gallery sculptures was performed using X R F, a noninvasive technique. An alloy of copper and zinc with low to medium tin and traces of lead was used to cast all the sculptures. Results were also compared to X R F analysis undertaken at the Norton Simon Museum on the bronze modeles and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on some of the serial A set as well. - Bronze is a misnomer for these sculptures, because they are all cast from brass (copper and zinc with tin).”[FN 8] 

Now that these five references document Edgar Degas -never- worked in wax, -never- cast in bronze [much less brass], -never- signed his mixed-media models and thought if his mixed-media models were to fall apart after his death his reputation would better for it, what does that mean for anything posthumously attributed to a dead Edgar Degas as it may apply to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Once upon a Time... Impressionism exhibition from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute?

ASSOCIATION OF ART MUSEUM DIRECTORS MEMBERS
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts director Nathalie Bondil and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's director Michael Conforti are members of the Association of Art Museum Directors.[FN 9]

In 1974, the Association of Art Museum Directors organization endorsed the College Art Association ethical guidelines on sculptural reproductions. In part, these ethical guidelines state: “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.”[FN 10]

Since a dead Edgar Degas [d 1917] could not have condoned anything posthumously, by acquiring and exhibiting this non-disclosed posthumous [c. 1921] 3rd-generation-removed brass [not bronze] -forgery- with a counterfeit "Degas" signature inscribed on the wooden base that is falsely attributed to a dead Edgar Degas [d 1917] titled Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' director  Nathalie Bondil and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute director Michael Conforti are directly violating their own endorsed ethical guidelines for monetary consideration including but not limited to: adult admission fee of $8.70 to $17.40.

Once again, 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."[FN 11]


So, are these AAMD member museums committing "a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment?"


AAMD'S PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES IN ART MUSEUM MANUEL
On page 31 under the subtitle -Reproductions of Works of Art- in the Association of Art Museum Directors published 2001 Professional Practices in Art Museum manuel, it states:  “misleading marketing of reproductions,  has created such widespread confusion as to require clarification in order to maintain professional standards. - museums must clearly indicate through the use of integral markings on the objects, as well as signs, labels and advertising, that these items are reproductions - signatures, edition numbers, and/or foundry marks on sculpture must not appear on the reproduction. - The touting of exaggerated investment value of reproductions must be avoided because the object or work being offered for purchase is not original and the resale value is highly in doubt. - When advertising reproductions, museums should not use language implying that there is any identity of quality between the copy and the original or lead the potential buyer to believe that by purchasing any such reproduction, he or she is acquiring an original work of art.[FN 12]

Therefore, the AAMD members Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
director Nathalie Bondil and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's director Michael Conforti could not even exhibit, much less sell, this non-disclosed posthumous [c. 1921] 3rd-generation-removed brass [not bronze] -forgery- with a counterfeit "Degas" signature inscribed on the wooden base that is falsely attributed to a dead Edgar Degas [d 1917] with the title: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen in their gift shop.

CANADA CRIMINAL CODE
In the Canada Criminal Code 380, it states: "(1) Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service, (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years, where the subject-matter of the offence is a testamentary instrument or the value of the subject-matter of the offence exceeds five thousand dollars."[FN 13]

  
 http://www.mbam.qc.ca/impressionnisme/HTML/en/works.html


The Montreal Museum of Fine Art seems to believe the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's "Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen"[FN 14] will draw visitors, for the  adult admission fee of $8.70 to $17.40 each to view their Once Upon a Time... Impressionism exhibition, when it is specifically [and the only one] featured by title in their online press release: "seventy-four paintings by Bonnard, Corot, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Millet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley and Toulouse-Lautrec, including a selection of twenty-one outstanding canvases by Renoir, and the Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (on view exclusively in Montreal)."[FN 15]

The importance placed upon this non-disclosed posthumous [c. 1921] 3rd-generation-removed brass [not bronze] -forgery- with a counterfeit "Degas" signature inscribed on the wooden base, titled Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, is further confirmed by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts when it is one of  only 22 photographs featured on their website promoting the 75 works in their Once Upon a Time... Impressionism exhibition.

What revenue could this Once Upon a Time... Impressionism exhibition generate for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and its' loaner institution Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute?

This is potentially addressed in an Ottawa Citzen published October 16, 2012 "Daytripping: Impressionists in Montreal" article by Paul Gessell, In part, the reporter wrote: "Ottawa loves Renoir. That was demonstrated most dramatically in 1997 when a Renoir exhibition drew 340,000 visitors to the National Gallery of Canada. That’s the highest number of people ever to attend a Nati­onal Gallery show. Renoir addicts now can get a fix just a two-hour drive from the capital, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which recently opened an exhibition titled Once Upon A Time … Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark."[FN 16] 

THREE TO SIX MILLION DOLLARS IN POTENTIAL REVENUE
So, if you mutiply 340,000 paying visitors by $8.70 to $17.40 adult admission fee, the total ranges from 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 dollars of potential revenue for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute that in part is being generated by their promotion of  non-disclosed posthumous [c. 1921] 3rd-generation-removed brass [not bronze] -forgery- with a counterfeit "Degas" signature inscribed on the wooden base, misrepresented as a "Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen."[FN 17]

So, once again, would the following be applicable: Canada Criminal Code 380 states: "(1) Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service, (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years, where the subject-matter of the offence is a testamentary instrument or the value of the subject-matter of the offence exceeds five thousand dollars?"[FN 18]

LAW, ETHICS AND THE VISUAL ARTS
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."
[FN 19]
 

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.”
[FN 20]
 
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.”
[FN 21]
 
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.”
[FN 22]
  

CONCLUSION
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 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute 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 exhibition of with reproductions, much less forgeries, including but not limited to: whether to pay the price of admission, purchase membership and/or support the museums monetarily with donations
.

But if these objects are not reproductions by definition and law, but -forgeries- with or without counterfeit signatures or inscriptions applied, much less posthumous, 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 -forgeries- 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. 

 

Gary Arseneau
artist, creator of original lithographs & scholar
Fernandina Beach, Florida   



[Correction mine: Impressionnism to Impressionism except for URLS]


FOOTNOTES:
 1. http://www.mbam.qc.ca/impressionnisme/HTML/en/exhibition.htm
"ONCE UPON A TIME... IMPRESSIONISM, AS PART OF AN UNPRECEDENTED WORLD TOUR THE IMPRESSIONIST MASTERPIECES OF THE STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE IS PRESENTED AT THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ART – THE EXCLUSIVE CANADIAN VENUE           
    "Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the MMFA and curator of this exhibition in Montreal, is delighted that “For the first and only time, one of the finest collections of Impressionist works in North America will be displayed in a Canadian exclusive at the Museum. Montreal will be the sole Canadian venue for this historic tour, which will travel from Europe to Asia during expansion work at the prestigious Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Chosen for their exceptional quality, seventy-four paintings by Bonnard, Corot, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Millet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley and Toulouse-Lautrec, including a selection of twenty-one outstanding canvases by Renoir, and the Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen  (on view exclusively in Montreal) will be shown at the MMFA. The inclusion of academic works by Bouguereau, Gérôme and Stevens, among others, will enable visitors to see how the new ‘modernism’ challenged official painting.”
    "This extraordinary collection, comparable in quality and size to that of Alfred C. Barnes, was the work of Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956), heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, who, for over half a century, quietly built up one of the finest art collections in the United States. Married to a French actress, Clark lived for many years in Paris, enthusiastically collecting art. A discriminating art lover and skilled negotiator, as independent in his lifestyle as in his tastes, this thoughtful and reticent man chose the artworks himself, consulting only with his knowledgeable wife, Francine. His collection included European and American paintings, Old Master prints and drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics.
    "In 1955, the Clarks opened the institute that bears their names in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in the heart of New England. It is now famous around the world for the outstanding quality of its art collection, which spans from European Old Masters to nineteenth-century art, decorative arts and remarkable holdings of works on paper, and one of America’s largest art history libraries.
    "This exhibition is organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. The Montreal presentation is produced in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts."


2. © 1999 By West Group, ISBN: 0314022864 

3.  Ibid

4. Art Journal © 1995 College Art Association, http://www.jstor.org/pss/777513 

5. © 1998 National Gallery of Art ISBN 0-300-07517-0
 

6. Copyright © 2000 by High Museum of Art, ISBN 0-8478-2340-7
 

7. www.nga.gov/education/degas-11.htm
 

8. © 2010 ISBN 978-0-691-14897-7, National Gallery of Art, Washington

9. http://www.aamd.org/about/
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Nathalie Bondil Montreal, Quebec 
Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Michael Conforti Williamstown, MA

10. www.collegeart.org/caa/ethics/sculpture.html “A Statement on Standards for Sculptural Reproduction and Preventive Measures to Combat Unethical Casting in Bronze Approved by the CAA Board of Directors, April 27, 1974. Endorsed by the Association of Art Museum Directors and the Art Dealers Association of America.”

11. © 1999 By West Group, ISBN: 0314022864

12. Published in 2001 by the Association of Art Museum Directors, 41 East 65th Street, New York, New York 10021, ISBN: 1-880974-02-9  

13. http://yourlaws.ca/criminal-code-canada/380-fraud-0 

14. http://www.mbam.qc.ca/impressionnisme/HTML/en/exhibition.html 

15. Ibid

16. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/travel/Daytripping+Impressionists+Montreal/7411251/story.html

17. http://www.mbam.qc.ca/impressionnisme/HTML/en/exhibition.html

18. http://yourlaws.ca/criminal-code-canada/380-fraud-0

19. © Kluwer Law International 1998, ISBN: 90-411-0697-9
 

20. Ibid
 

21. Ibid
 

22. Ibid  
 
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