Brian Sewell Exposes Thyssen Fake But Not Norman Rosenthal

It is a well-known fact that within the money-obsessed art market, exposing fakes is rarely going to make you friends and certainly little in the way of a profit, which is the main reason why my questioning of many of the paintings in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has been met with such deafening silence; particularly in Spain.

It was thus somewhat reassuring when Brian Sewell, the Evening Standard’s legendary art critic, recently took it upon himself to not only expose a painting from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection claimed to be by Edward Wadsworth as a fake, and question Tate Modern for including it in their ‘Futurism’ exhibition (until 20 September), but also to reveal the reason for such dishonesty.

Unfortunately, he didn’t question Norman Rosenthal, veteran Exhibitions Secretary at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and now ‘freelance curator to international museums and galleries’, who has been a member of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation in Madrid for some 8 years. How could Rosenthal let ‘Wadsworth’s’ ‘Vorticist Abstraction 1915’ be included in the Tate Modern exhibition? Was it done because its inclusion might ‘give (the painting) respectability’, as Brian Sewell suggests?

It seems clear that Rosenthal is a man who may be sailing dangerously close to acting as both poacher and game-keeper. Indeed, he raised more than a few eyebrows with an article in The Art Newspaper of December 2008, where he advocated the introduction of a statute of limitations on the restitution of Nazi-looted art.

My letter to the editor of The Art Newspaper has remained unpublished; until now:

‘8 December 2008
Dear Sir,
Sir Norman’s article concerning Nazi-looted art in your latest issue is fascinating more for what he doesn’t say than for what he does. Surely, the fact that he is a trustee of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum must present him with a conflict of interest; particularly now that the full extent of the Thyssen-Bornemiszas’ involvement with Göring and the Third Reich has been revealed, and a number of paintings in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection are believed to qualify as Nazi-looted art.
This is a fact that cannot have escaped Norman’s attention, particularly in the case of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum’s Pissarro painting ‘Rue St Honore, Afternoon, Effect of Rain’, which is the subject of a legal action for retrieval by the Cassirer family.
Under the circumstances, Sir Norman’s call for a statute of limitations could unfortunately be seen to be motivated more by his professional interests than his moral judgement’.

Another Fake Thyssen-Bornemisza (nee Wadsworth) ?

Another Fake Thyssen-Bornemisza (nee Wadsworth) ?

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