Thousands of fake pieces claiming to be from famed Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation (Greenstone, ON) artist, Norval Morrisseau, have been seized by police.
A large-scale investigation dubbed “Project Totton” that involved Thunder Bay Police and Ontario Provincial Police, has pulled more than 1,000 alleged fake pieces of the famed Indigenous artist after more than two years of investigating.
Both police forces have been working since 2020 on the case and as a result of the work, eight people have been arrested and are facing a total of 40 charges. Investigators report that some of these paintings sold for tens of thousands of dollars to unsuspecting buyers who were led to believe they were genuine pieces.
The OPP does say that they are not in a position to authenticate any artwork.
In a release, police say if you believe you may be in possession of a suspected forgery or fraudulent work of art, it is recommended that you seek legal advice by contacting a lawyer or the Law Society of Ontario, which operates the Law Society Referral Service. That information is available here.
Thunder Bay acting Chief Dan Taddeo spoke about the case;
Norval Morrisseau was a prominent artist of the Thunder Bay region and to profit off of his name is not only unethical but also illegal. Together with the Ontario Provincial Police, I congratulate all involved for the successful resolution of such an important investigation.
OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said it was important for both forces to “identify and hold accountable those who allegedly profited illegally by forging Norval Morrisseau’s artwork. The results of this investigation are a testament to the commitment and competence of the investigators and the collaboration of policing partners.”
Of the people arrested, five people are from Thunder Bay, another from Essa Township, one individual is from Niagra-on-the-Lake and another person is from the Markam region.