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Gallery raid sparks panic over supposed fakes of late artist d’Arcy Doyle

Artist’s widow in marathon authentication exercise

The widow of Australian vernacular artist d’Arcy Doyle has authenticated 240 of his paintings after a police raid on Doyle’s former gallery prompted a panic over forgeries.

Meanwhile, police are struggling to disentangle claims for millions of dollars’ worth of money and paintings owned by investors in the Ronald Coles Investment Gallery in Sydney, which was raided in January. Coles himself has gone to ground following allegations of fraud against him.

More than 400 paintings by some of Australia’s best-known artists, said to be worth more than A$5m ($3.6m), were seized in the raid. But Sydney auctioneer Bonhams and Goodman, asked to draw up an inventory of the impounded works, reduced the value to about A$500,000, because many of the paintings were believed to be fakes. The company’s Tim Goodman said he had identified three fake Arthur Streetons, eight fake Pro Harts and 17 fake David Boyds. Of two Arthur Boyd paintings, one was an original and the other was fake, said Mr Goodman.

The haul included 90 paintings by d’Arcy Doyle, whom Ronald Coles represented for many years. Jennefer Doyle, who flew to Sydney from her home in Queensland to advise the inquiry, declared these to be genuine. But the saga had generated such concern among other collectors that the Sydney art consultancy Banziger Hulme arranged for Mrs Doyle to conduct a further “authentication day” on 27 March, at which she authenticated another 150 works of art to have been by Doyle.

A copy of the Bonhams and Goodman inventory has been sent to everyone who registered a claim against Coles. At least 150 have made statements to the police claiming to have invested sums between A$20,000 and A$1.2m with Coles. Police are attempting to sort out who owns the paintings on the inventory, and who is unable to find their missing works of art.

These people had bought works from Coles for their personal retirement portfolios. Under Australian tax law, pension-related works of art cannot be kept with an investor’s private assets, so the buyers left the works with the gallery. But it is claimed that Coles re-sold some of the works to new investors, without permission and without handing on the proceeds.

A group of these investors have now launched legal action seeking an independent receiver to investigate what happened to their paintings and to recover their money, according to recent Sydney media reports.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Gallery raid sparks panic over fakes'