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Art fraud and theft

Media Release

29 June 1999

Although faking and theft of art is a substantial problem for dealers and the market generally, claims that as much as 90 per cent of Aboriginal art is fraudulent are rubbish, according to a specialist in art fraud and theft.

"Much Aboriginal art is sold directly from the artists' communities and these communities provide solid documentation of the authenticity and authorship of the works they sell," says Professor Ken Polk, of the Criminology Department at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Polk will be a keynote speaker at a conference to be held in Sydney in December 1999.

The theme of the Art Fraud and Heritage Crime Conference, being organised by the Australian Institute of Criminology is Protecting Art, Artists and Consumers.

The Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Adam Graycar, says fakes are a bigger problem than theft but both faking and thefts damage the market and are also a substantial cost to dealers.

Dr Graycar says the conference will focus on theft, fakes (including of Aboriginal art) and antiquities. Its emphasis will be on solutions.

He says art fraud and theft are very much an international problem.

"It is by no means confined and, with the increasing ease of communication and travel, perpetrators can move fakes and stolen art around very quickly," Dr Graycar says.

Speakers at the conference will include art dealers, police enforcement officers and academics.

Topics will include the use of scientific techniques in verifying the authenticity of art works and the problems that law enforcement officers face in dealing with fraud and theft in the art market.

The conference will discuss ways of protecting against theft, including the establishment of a national register of stolen works of art.