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An Empty Frame: Crimes of Art in New Zealand

24 September 2016 - 8 January 2017

Free entry

Crimes of art are categorised into three main areas: theft, vandalism and fraud. Criminally punishable, New Zealand is not exempt from art crimes. The motive for art crimes is often to do with money though on-selling stolen art is problematic for both the seller and in turn, the buyer. 

When a work is vandalised there is a public outcry for we place great value on art.  Value is subjective and art can be valued for its sentimentality or monetary worth.  Fraudsters continue to deceive collectors, both private and public, and in many ways developing technology has made this easier for those forging art.  This exhibition showcases a small selection of crimes providing an alternative art history. 

Closer to home, Hamilton has been the victim of art crimes.  Molly Macalister’s Little Bull, located in Hamilton Gardens, was the target of vandals in 1968 when the bronze sculpture was covered in paint shortly after its unveiling.  Julia King’s 2010 award winning oil painting, Ohiwa Dunes, was stolen from Waikato Hospital in 2012 and never recovered. The Portrait of Te Haho, purchased in 2001 by Trust Waikato, was found in 2012 not to have been painted by the revered artist, Gottfried Lindauer but by an unknown artist. 

The exhibition’s title comes from the elegant gold frame on show that once framed the painting Psyche. In 1942 Psyche mysteriously disappeared but the frame remains in pristine condition in the collection of Christchurch Art Gallery, an ever present reminder of a work that once formed part of the original collection. Works have come from as far afield as Great Barrier Island and Timaru.

Penelope Jackson - Curator

Image: Gilt frame from Solomon J. Solomon's Psyche, 1902. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. The painting was stolen from the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in June 1942.

Schools: Find out about our art education programme here.

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Art Con Competition - create a 'fake' artwork

About Penelope Jackson

Penelope Jackson is an art historian and curator with a special interest in historical and contemporary New Zealand art crime.  The former Director of the Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, Jackson has published widely and curated exhibitions such as the award winning, Corrugations: The art of Jeff Thomson and more recently, The Lynley Dodd Story, for the State Library of Western Australia.  Jackson’s article, ‘Planning Revenge: Art Crime and Charles Frederick Goldie’ was published in the Journal of Art Crime (October 2012). She has presented papers at the annual conference in Italy of the international Association for Research into Crimes against Art and the inaugural artcrime2015 symposium at City Gallery, Wellington, in 2015.  Her work as a museum consultant has included feasibility studies and reviews.  Jackson is a Trustee of the newly formed New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust. Her essay ‘Legacy and Longevity: Protecting the Past for the Future’ was published in Art Crime and Its Prevention: A handbook for collectors and art professionals in 2016.  Jackson’s book, Art Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story is due out later in 2016.