Art dealer missing in scandal

Art dealer missing in scandal

RONALD Coles, a respected Sydney art dealer is missing as the law investigates his business. Dozens of private investors are also eager to locate millions of dollars in missing art and money.

Police, seized a total of 404 paintings — some by well-known artists — worth more than $5 million from the Ronald Coles Investment Gallery in Kenthurst and two private properties in Kenthurst and Dural. A number of firearms also were found, police said.

Police have confirmed they are investigating at least 20 complaints. Evidence has emerged of dealings in works said to be forgeries, and of multiple owners of paintings by artists including Tom Roberts, Sir Sidney Nolan, Norman Lindsay and Mr Coles’s friend the late d’Arcy Doyle, the Queensland painter of Australian landscapes and historical scenes. It is not suggested Mr Coles is responsible for the alleged forgeries.

Tania Howard who worked for Mr Coles and whose family had bought an original James Thomas painting and a limited-edition print of the same work recounted her experience “I was admiring the quality of the original compared to the print. It was then that I noticed some of the bark on the trees was missing and some of the cows’ heads were looking in different directions. You can imagine my shock when I realised [it was] a fraud of the original. I quit that same night.”

Retired businessman George Lusis, who has known Mr Coles for more than 20 years, said he had spent almost a year in the courts trying to get the dealer to pay $165,000 he was owed.

Mr Lusis gave Mr Coles two paintings — an untitled painting of an elephant by Sidney Nolan and Lady and Parrot by Norman Lindsay — for exhibition and sale at his gallery, but never received any money from the sales.

Mr Lusis said he first began to realise ‘things didn’t add up’ in October 2007.
By March last year he was so concerned he went to Mr Coles’s gallery and physically removed his Tom Roberts painting — worth some $200,000.

“He told me he already had a sale for it,” Mr Lusis said. “I said I’ll consider selling it through you when I get the money for the other two paintings.”
Mr Lusis began legal action shortly after, but says that to this day he has only received one small payment from Mr Coles.

Yesterday two experts described the affair as Australia’s largest-ever art scandal and said it threatened to destroy trust in the local industry for years.

Australian Times

Australian Times

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