Westpoint – damages: Part 1

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    “BBC Report:A painting by former artist Robert Lenkiewicz has been damaged after a display wall fell over during an exhibition of his work in Devon.The 15m display wall had about 20 paintings on it when it collapsed.Bearne's said Silver Lake, a 183cm by 282cm (6ft by 9ft) landscape worth £6,000 to £8,000, was slightly damaged."The damage is very slight - there's a small hole in the canvas about the size of a little fingernail," spokesman Dan Goddard told BBC News.”What happened was: for unknown reasons, just before 4:30 pm on Thursday, the entire east display wall, in three sections, fell face down on the floor. It dragged with it several paintings on the adjoining north wall. There were not, as stated, 20 paintings on the wall, but more than 50 oils and watercolours that went down. I happened to be by the wall, and two of us stopped the southern portion of the wall, supporting it until help arrived. Thus at least a large number of drawings and watercolours never went down. Sadly there were numerous damages inflicted on the paintings on the larger parts that did fall, see photos. A man nearby did not notice the wall coming down and was hit by it, but not visibly injured.The damages were far more extensive than reported in the press (see BBC Report). The ripped canvas in Silver Lake was made public, but that’s all. In fact a large number of paintings were damaged, not to mention their frames. Among the damaged works was Mary on the Great Bed (lot 394), hanging on the north wall but hit by the falling east wall. The canvas was scraped in the upper central part, and the canvas was folded with a resulting crease. One might point out that Bearne’s description is slightly misleading in describing this work as “unframed” whereas it was in fact also unstretched. The painting will need conservation to be restored, something not mentioned when it was sold at the auction.The Silver Lake was not just damaged, it was crushed. My photo shows the shattered glass and the disjointed frame (those joints are glued) of this painting, which speaks for itself. Still, the damage was described as “a small hole in the canvas about the size of a little fingernail”. Hmm.Quite a few of the drawings that went down were folded when caught between the wall and the floor, with resulting creases. The watercolours in the Mill Lane Railway Bridge (lot 446), framed together, were pushed from their position when the struck the floor, the passepartout, damaged, and the frame damaged, but none of this was mentioned when they were auctioned.I fear that a number of buyers may have been unaware of the damages, especially those bidding over the phone or Internet. That also applies to the paintings that were part of the group stolen from Robert and recovered after his death. The painting Mary in Green Jumper (lot 163) was in a disastrous shape (again, described as “unframed” but in fact also unstretched, carelessly cut from the stretcher with loss of all margins). It looked fine in the catalogue, but on closer inspection the thief cut the canvas obliquely along the lower side, so that the lower left corner is missing. The signature is far down on the right side, and if this canvas is framed in a rectangular frame, either the signature will be hidden or there will be a hole in the lower left corner. Further, there were paint damages all over the painting due to haphazard folding, as if someone had squeezed it into a ball. The catalogue photograph does not show these damages very well, but the painting is in severe need of major restoration. The painting sold to an Internet bidder for £25,000 (not many works went to internet bidders but this one did, for obvious reasons). What a disappointment when the buyer receives the rag!The buyers determination may perhaps not have been influenced even if they had been aware of the damages inflicted by the accident. Perhaps unstretched and creased canvases need not be described as such. Besides, in view of other problems regarding these Estate works, that I will describe later, these questionable circumstances are, after all, minor.



    There was no doubt that the whole incident was a bit farcical! For a start, the rigidity of the stands left a lot to be desired, in fact, they were completely SHIT (without wanting too sound blunt). After the fall, I put my hand on top of a nearby stand to wobble it, and saw that the 'whole length' of the stand would wobble under slight pressure. When I was talking to one of the Bearne's staff, he said that Bearne's did not construct the stands, but paid the Westpoint arena to do that, so Bearne's were absolved from that. He also told me that they would be likely to claim compensation from 'Westpoint' for damage on Silver Lake (whether this has happened, or will happen I do not know as I write).However, if things were to be done professionally, then the row of works mentioned by member555 would have been put on hold from auctioning, in order to undergo a period of reassessment, and then auctioned at a later time. But Bearne's - obviously anxious to get them all knocked-out in the nine-hour stretch, while they had the arena on hire - clearly swept the dirt under the carpet and got on with it regardles! And they were clearly little interested in announcing (or even informing bidders) that a number of works had been affected, to at least give them a chance to take a second look before bidding.



    Good posts, 555 and gbl. The photographs clearly show an unstable display wall. There is no counterweight to prevent the wall from falling once it's full of paintings. If the supports had jutted out a little in the opposite direction (i.e. on the same side as the paintings) it would have stood.What is the legal position here? Is it a case of caveat emptor or is an auctioneer obliged to state the condition of an item, particularly when it has changed just prior to the auction? Given that Bearne's, according to gbl, may attempt to claim compensation for the damage to Silver Lake, it seems reasonable that any buyers duped by Bearne's can in turn claim damages from them. Not good. A real shame, since up to now Bearne's had handled the Lenkewicz sales rather well, certainly better than others unnamed.



    Is there a part 2 to this report, member555?



    Besides, in view of other problems regarding these Estate works, that I will describe later, these questionable circumstances are, after all, minor.

    So minor it would appear, now not worth re-visiting? The auctioneer made it clear these lots were sold as seen. If people are daft enough to bid on the phone or internet without seeing them it's their fault. If they had asked any questions Bearnes would have answered them faithfully, I am sure.

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