Posted by Aboriginal Art Directory | 02.11.10
Author: Moya Kate Baldry
By now, my painting by Gloria Petyarre (Bush Medicine Leaves 2008, International Artwork Code A15119, 200 x 150, 2062) an esteemed Australian Aboriginal artist, could be in Timbuktoo by now. Thanks to questionable management of the Sydney-based art investment and rental agency Smith and Hall which has now been placed in receivership.
Because my painting has gone walkabout. It was supposed to stay under the custodianship of Smith and Hall, for rental, returning 8% per year for 3 years. They were supposed to look after it. They did neither.
Just six months into the rental agreement, the payments stopped. Phone calls ensued and eventually payments resumed. Staff turned over and still I turned a blind eye. Then an email arrived from the encumbered sales agent, announcing the company was in receivership and we should organise to collect our paintings as quickly as possible.
From where? No-one at Smith and Hall was answering the phone, and soon, even the website had been taken down. I was left to wait, hoping to hear from an administrator. Hoping they would find me. You won’t find it hard to believe, but I sat very still. To contemplate my blind faith in the management ability of others. And I, I the one with the MBA. I should have known better.
Eventually an envelope arrived. Ah, the humble administrators. My painting, I was certain, would be found. As per the Smith and Hall rental agreement (which I should now turn into toilet paper for all it was worth – except that I may need it as evidence in a civil claim), my painting should be secured safely in a storage facility if it had not been rented out.
Ah, all was not lost, there would be a paper trail.
After all, artwork is not just carried in and out of storage facilities without it. I’d worked at the National Gallery of Victoria, I even know someone in cataloguing, and my son has broken an artifact at a local museum! Art simply does not walk from one location to another without three people signing something while the insurance people lurk around sweating.
But not at Smith and Hall. The manager of the storage facility has informed me that up to five Smith and Hall staff could remove paintings at any time. There was no log kept – because this additional indexing cost money. No, the directors at Smith and Hall chose to cut costs, and in doing so, have risked millions of dollars of artwork to the conscience, the street-smarts, and wherewithal of a growing list of people. Including themselves.
Leaving me with an ever-growing realization that my art portfolio is disappearing at a faster rate than my portfolio of questions is growing.
The Police have already told me they will investigate the painting’s disappearance if I can confirm the painting hasn’t been repossessed. Tomorrow I will again ring the administrators and present my questions. And a lawyer. After all, I still don’t know if the painting even exists. Or if it has been re-sold. And if it has, do I even have a legal claim to it?
As a signatory to the Indigenous Art Code we are committed to ethical and transparent business dealings with Indigenous visual artists and abide by the standards set out in the Code.