ArtCrime2017: The Symposium

The New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust held its now much anticipated annual Art Crime Symposium, ArtCrime2017: The Symposium, at the City Gallery in Wellington on 14 October 2017.

This year’s Symposium kicked off with a presentation from Camilla Baskcomb, an accredited paper conservator from the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.  Camilla gave the audience wonderful insights into what paper can tell us about an artwork’s authenticity, drawn from her many years of experience both in private practice and working with public collections.

We then heard from Linda Tyler, Director of the Centre for Art Studies at the University of Auckland.  Linda described the world of fake Chinese porcelain in New Zealand, including the manufacturing of Ming porcelain items which are passed off as fakes.


One of these things is not like the other – spot the fake in these Ming porcelain items.

Next up was Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, an investigative artist based in Wellington.  Bronwyn described her work as the Project Director of the E. Mervyn Taylor mural search and recovery project, a fascinating undertaking to preserve, document and in some cases locate murals by this New Zealand artist who was active in the 1950s and 60s.

EM Taylor

Bronwyn Holloway-Smith at work on the E. Mervyn Taylor mural search and recovery project.

Jonathan Barrett, commercial law lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, then had the audience considering some tricky questions about whether or not we should accommodate illegal street art, graffiti and vandalism.

Next Felicity Strong, a curator and researcher based in Melbourne, Australia, considered public perceptions of art crime and how these could be challenged, including considering the mythology around art fraud and how people might come to consider it as “not a big deal”.

The last speaker of the day was Suzanne Janissen, who is a Barrister with a special interest in art law.  Suzanne described the case against the “Vandal of Timbuktu”, and the promising steps in this prosecution for war crimes involving the destruction of nine culturally significant historic and religious buildings.

The afternoon session was a highly topical panel discussion about Lindauer, art crime and the media, considering in particular the recent theft of a painting by Gottfried Lindauer from an Auckland Gallery, and the subsequent appearance of that painting on the “dark web”.  The panel members were Ngarino Ellis (Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland), Lynne Freeman (Radio NZ), Penelope Jackson (independent curator and author), Hannah Leahy (City Gallery’s Communication Manager) and Josie McNaught (media lawyer at Izard Weston & Co).


The panel featuring (from left to right): Lynne Freeman, Hannah Leahy, Josie McNaught, Ngarino Ellis and Penelope Jackson.

As is now tradition, this thoroughly enjoyable and highly informative day wrapped up with a cocktail function in the foyer of the City Gallery.  This was a perfect opportunity for attendees to mingle and discuss the topics and ideas they had heard throughout the day.

We are are looking forward to another fantastic Symposium in 2018!


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