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Mini dossier : les objets "van Grecken". De bien ténébreuses affaires

Nineteen « New Guinea » sculptures by a mystery hoaxer from the Gene van Grecken Collection

Harry Beran
p. 179-192

Abstracts

In the 1960s Jean Guiart bought fifteen « New Guinea » woodcarvings from Gene van Grecken in Sydney for the National Museum of the Arts of Africa and Oceania in Paris and published nine of them. Some authorities on New Guinea art considered them forgeries and two of these advised Guiart of this but he rejected their judgement. The issue was referred to only once in print very briefly in a Sotheby’s sales catalogue. In 1987, van Grecken offered a further seven « New Guinea » woodcarvings for sale at auction in Sydney. They are similar to those bought by Guiart and are also inauthentic. This essay illustrates twelve of the carvings van Grecken sold to Guiart in the 1960s and the seven carvings he offered for sale in 1987 and argues for the view that they are not forgeries but part of a hoax perpetrated by an Australian artist, who remains anonymous, perhaps to see whether experts on New Guinea art can tell genuine woodcarvings from pastiches.

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Text / excerpt

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Outline

Fifteen woodcarvings sold by Gene van Grecken to Jean Guiart in 1966
Seven woodcarvings sold by Gene van Grecken at auction in 1987
Forgeries or hoax pieces?
The identity of the hoaxer

Text / first lines

Fifteen woodcarvings sold by Gene van Grecken to Jean Guiart in 1966

In 1963 Jean Guiart published The Arts of the South Pacific, the first survey devoted entirely to the material arts of this region. Three years later he visited Gene van Grecken, a Sydney tribal art dealer and collector, and bought fifteen woodcarvings from him for the National Museum of the Arts of Africa and Oceania in Paris (nmaao) now incorporated into the Musée du Quai Branly.

In 1967 Guiart published nine of these carvings (Ills 1-9 in the present essay) in an article « Art primitif et « structures » and claimed they demonstrate that Sepik artworks have far greater stylistic variability than is generally recognised. In 1969 he republished seven of them (Ills 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 in this essay) in another article, « The Concept of Norm in the Art of Some Oceanic Societies », and claimed they show that the borders between Sepik style regions are much more fluid than is generally thought.

Between these years, G...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Harry Beran, « Nineteen « New Guinea » sculptures by a mystery hoaxer from the Gene van Grecken Collection », Le Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 142-143 | 2016, 179-192.

Electronic reference

Harry Beran, « Nineteen « New Guinea » sculptures by a mystery hoaxer from the Gene van Grecken Collection », Le Journal de la Société des Océanistes [Online], 142-143 | 2016, Online since 15 December 2018, connection on 23 November 2017. URL : http://jso.revues.org/7528 ; DOI : 10.4000/jso.7528

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About the author

Harry Beran

Independent researcher, hberan@btinternet.com

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Copyright

© Tous droits réservés

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