Sacred Beaver with Circles of Life (1989) Norval Morrisseau

Sacred Beaver with Circles of Life
Norval Morrisseau
acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 30″, 1989
Norval Morrisseau at the Art Emporium
From the Art Emporium in Vancouver (1989)
to the National Gallery in Ottawa (2006)
Bryant Ross, Gabe Vadas and Norval Morrisseau
Making a mark over 17 years.
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A few months visit with his long estranged relatives in Sandy Lake and Thunder Bay in 2002 led to Norval Morrisseau, Canada’s greatest artist, flogging “work” at the local flea market for next to nothing to support them. That was until he quietly flew the coop back home to B.C.

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Art at the heart of family quarrel

An ugly public rift has developed between two groups seeking to protect the legacy of Nanaimo-based Norval Morrisseau, one of Canada’s most celebrated living painters.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake in the dispute between the Morrisseau Family Foundation, announced last month by Morrisseau’s son, Christian, and the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society, a group of academics endorsed by Morrisseau’s adopted son, Gabe Vadas.

At issue: which organization is arbiter of the works created by Morrisseau, an Ojibway artist whose paintings sell for as much as $100,000.

As prices for Morrisseau’s works rise, so do the number of forgeries in the market. They are a concern not only because of fraud, but because a flood of fake paintings devalues the true works of an artist and diminishes the amount of money he receives for his work.

Morrisseau, 75, cannot speak clearly because he has advanced Parkinson’s disease. But he has signed a public statement dissociating himself from the Morrisseau Family Foundation.

A spokesman for the foundation could not be reached. On Sept. 15, Morrisseau’s son, Christian, also an artist, announced its creation, saying it would “serve to carry on Morrisseau family artistic traditions and to protect and nourish the Morrisseau family legacy.” In a press release, Christian also said the foundation will authenticate works by Morrisseau.

But Vadas says the only official group looking into Morrisseau’s art is the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society. The committee of art experts came together two years ago to create a catalogue raisonné — a comprehensive catalogue of all Morrisseau’s artworks, including provenance, size and condition.

Last year Morrisseau became the first aboriginal artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada.

Vancouver Province
October 28, 2007