Monday, December 17, 2007

Bonham's, antiquities and a postive spin?

Bonham's have not been receiving too much positive publicity about the sale and display of antiquities. But now it is being suggested that it was Bonham's that helped to unmask the forgers behind the Bolton Amarna princess.

Ivan Macquisten reports in the Antiques Trade Gazette (archived):
The British Museum were credited with uncovering the fraud that led to the jailing of serial faker Shaun Greenhalgh two weeks ago, while auction houses and the trade were criticised for selling his work.
... it was trade specialists who raised the alarm after the British Museum had enthusiastically endorsed examples of Greenhalgh’s work as genuine, unwittingly giving him and his family the verification they sought to pursue their fraud.
These revelations are made by Richard Falkiner
who chairs the antiquities vetting committees at both the Grosvenor House and Olympia fairs, and is consultant to auction houses, dealers and collectors, first came across one of the Greenhalgh fakes in early 2006 on a visit to Bonhams, where he advises the antiquities department.
Clearly bad publicity over antiquities would damage his interests and activities.

So why the spin at this point? Again it is reported:
Mr Falkiner said that he decided to make the revelations public because he was unhappy that, far from being credited with their contribution to exposing the fraud, Bonhams and the trade in general had been criticised in the press for helping put fakes in circulation.
Perhaps what this case has shown is that "old collections" can be fabricated, a feature seen in the surfacing of genuine antiquities in North American cases.

And if Falkiner is wanting to deflect criticisms of "Bonhams and the [antiquities] trade in general" could he explain how newly surfaced antiquities continued to be sold on the market?

And equally worrying is the way that museum officials seem to have authenticated these Greenhalgh forgeries. Will those institutions explain how their staff made such a serious error of judgement?

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