Sunday, May 10, 2009

When Art Dealers Go Bad: Run Ronnie Run!

Art dealer Ronald Coles at his Kenthurst gallery in 2004. Photo: Natasha Paes/Hills News

In February 2009 hundreds of complaints were filed in Australia concerning art dealer Ronald Coles. This was due to two key factors. First, Coles had orchestrated an art market scheme that involved selling forgeries that he claimed were original works by Norman Lindsay and other famous Australian artists. Apparently he had the fakes created in China. Second, Coles owed millions of dollars to his angry clients and allegedly had stolen authentic works of art as well from his cliental. The forgeries had ended up for sale at auction houses and other venues while the legitimate stolen works had been sold online.

Australian authorities raided the Ronald Coles Investment Gallery and Coles residence only to find a large collection of firearms and hundreds of stolen paintings-- some of which were valued at over $4 million at the time of the bust. Afterwards dozens of former clients discovered that works of art that they had entrusted to Coles had been sold on the internet while others found out that the works they had purchased from Coles were in fact fakes. Unfortunately, Ronald Coles was no where to be found-- he has been on the run since before the police raided his property.

It has since been revealed that Coles had been running his scheme as early as 1994. Rumors state that other professionals within the market were aware of Coles activity but were wary of exposing him out of fear that the market as a whole would be scrutinized. In other words, if those claims are true it would mean that other professionals kept silent while Coles established a national reputation for himself as a legitimate art dealer and broker.

The plot thickens-- Ronald Coles is currently running from more than just the law. Recent buzz claims that Coles vanished with over $1 million in cash that belonged to an under-the-table client-- an outlaw biker (bikie for the people down under) gang in Australia. Needless to say, the biker gang did not bother with a formal complaint to Australian authorities. Instead they intimidated Coles stepdaughter, Sage Carver, who also happens to be an art dealer.

Sage Carver claims that the gang told her that they want to take Ronald Coles for a “ride”. However, the name of the specific gang has yet to be released to the press-- though the story has been confirmed by press in Sydney under the condition of anonymity. Apparently members of the biker gang had shown up at a gallery opening hosted by Carver in order to find out where Coles had gone. The outlaw biker gang members left with five paintings after Carver was unable to provide them with information.

A senior member of the outlaw biker gang, under the condition of anonymity, informed the press that the gang had invested money in Coles operation and that the shamed art dealer owes millions to over a dozen dozen senior members of the gang. The outlaw stated that the biker gang has the resources and the manpower to find Ronald Coles before he is captured by law enforcement, stating that “one way or another“ his gang will get their investment back.

The senior member of the outlaw biker gang made it clear to the press that Ronald Coles can only run for so long. All I can say is that Coles had better keep running-- or do the smart thing and run to the nearest jail cell… though it might be wise for him to pay back a few of his clients first.
Link of Interest:

Bikies want to have a 'chat' about their $1m

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter


Mark Staff Brandl said...

Can we rent these Bikies to have some "discussions" with some "other" artworld parasites? Good luck guys!

Anonymous said...

Ronald Coles - the classic Australian "art professional".
Zero education,zero honesty,zero integrity,zero accountability and 100% cynical greed.They are all like that.