Major museum and art gallery shops are deceived by fake indigenous carvers

Major museum and art gallery shops are deceived by fake indigenous carvers


Until recently, the gift shops of some of the most famous museums and art galleries in British Columbia still sold wood sculptures by an artist named “Harvey John” for hundreds of dollars.

according to Standard biographies used by these stores, Harvey John is Nuu-Chah-Nulth from Vancouver Island and learned the traditional Northwest Coast style from his uncle.

But these are not true. Without John Harvey, the people responsible for these carvings are not indigenous at all.

Due to some sharp questions raised by indigenous artists, an art dealer in the Fraser Valley admitted that Harvey John was a pseudonym, and for many years he had deliberately deceived buyers across the country and around the world.

Curtis Collins, curator and chief curator of the Whistler Udan Museum of Art, said: “This is really disturbing. In a sense, someone will project such a false identity.

Museum shop Recently notified people who purchased Harvey John’s work Regarding cheating, let them know that they can get a full refund.

Along with Audain, the Museum of Anthropology and the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver both confirmed that they had removed Harvey John’s work from their store and cut contact with the supplier.

“We deal with everyone sincerely,” said Sharon Haswell, store manager at the Museum of Anthropology.

“We want people to be honest in their transactions. Unfortunately, this is a scam.”

The art dealer in question is Steve Hoffmann, who lives in Langley.

In a telephone interview with CBC News, Hoffman admitted that he deliberately misled people and stated that he had paid financial compensation to the shop that was scammed.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I have a conscience.”

He claimed that these works were the work of a sculptor in British Columbia — not overseas as some people suggested online — and said the artist was responsible for the false biography. He added that at first he believed that the carver was an indigenous, but when he discovered the truth, he chose to continue lying.

“One way of looking at it is that I am helping someone make a living,” Hoffman said. “But from another point of view, it is a pseudonym. It is not accurate.”

Hoffman will not reveal the true identity of the artist, and explained: “I don’t want to criticize anyone.”

‘I know immediately’

The sloppy description of fake artists led to the collapse of the entire plan.

Erin Brillon, the Haida/Kerry fashion designer behind the Totem Design House, noticed the listing of an art store in Alberta and described Harvey John’s work as “original Haida carvings”-not an official biography. Said Nuu-Chah-Nulth.

Briillon Posted about her in a Facebook group Committed to exposing fraudulent Aboriginal art.

“I knew right away that this was not done by Haida. It was not designed by Haida in any way, shape or form,” Brilon recalled. “And I know that John is not the Haida surname.”

Her posts were quickly overwhelmed by comments from people who were skeptical with her and others who found shops selling Harvey John’s art around the world.

Eventually, someone tagged a Vancouver business owner who sold carvings. The man confronted Hoffman and asked him to admit the scam, and the news spread all over the world of BC Gallery.

“A lot of people stepped in and realized that something bigger was happening here. I’m really happy that we really found the root of the art of fraud,” Brilon said.

Fashion designer Erin Brillon takes a group photo at the Haida Now exhibition at the Vancouver Museum on September 22, 2020. (Ben Nilms/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

But she pointed out that this is not just an artist who uses a pseudonym and a false identity.

Fake Aboriginal art is disturbingly common-now, members of Facebook groups”Fraudulent local art was exposed, etc.“T-shirt sellers are seen every day blackmailing indigenous artists to sell products that “every child is important”.

Brillon recalled visiting a gift shop in Alaska, where cruise ship passengers were selling counterfeit Northwest Coast-style masks and carvings, and they were told that the products they were buying were “inspired” by indigenous art rather than real artwork.

Brillon said: “They sell a lot of this to American tourists because people naturally don’t care if they just want cheap prices.”

“It’s crazy to have artists there… These artists are not rich, but these galleries are selling these copycat works and making a fortune.”

‘Many people turn a blind eye’

U.S There are indeed laws protecting Native American art forms And it is illegal to sell and sell counterfeit products, punishable by up to $1 million or even five years in prison. Brillon hopes to see Canada do the same.

But she also believes that museums and art galleries need to be responsible for the products they sell in gift shops and be more careful to ensure that they are truly indigenous.

“Uncover [Harvey John] It should happen sooner.I think there is [were] Many people turn a blind eye,” Brilon said.

Haswell, the store manager of the Museum of Anthropology, said that this experience made her more cautious about the products she sells, and she might start asking for face-to-face meetings with artists.

At the Audan Museum of Art, Collins said that the advantage of this experience is that people are now more concerned about quacks.

“From our perspective, this is refreshing because it means that both buyers and distributors need to strengthen scrutiny to ensure that Aboriginal art-in this case, the design of the Northwest Coast-will not be affected at all. Take advantage,” he said.

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