A SMALL B.C. TOWN WAS DE­LIGHTED TO HAVE A NEW GALLERY SELL­ING HIGH-END ART­WORKS — UN­TIL IT CLOSED, LEAV­ING MANY LO­CAL RES­I­DENTS, ART DEAL­ERS AND ARTISTS FU­RI­OUS, HOLD­ING UN­PAID BILLS.

ARTISTS, TRADES­PEO­PLE FUM­ING AF­TER BANKRUPTCY

Ottawa Citizen - - NP - Dou­glAs QuAn

Mar­lowe Gor­ing’s art gallery was the talk of the town when it opened in 2013 in the re­tire­ment com­mu­nity of Qualicum Beach, B.C.

The gallery fea­tured the works of abo­rig­i­nal artist Nor­val Mor­ris­seau — “the Pi­casso of the North” — and var­i­ous West Coast artists. There was talk of in­cor­po­rat­ing a chic wine bar.

But about a year and a half in, the gallery went bust and res­i­dents in this nor­mally staid town are said to have be­come fu­ri­ous with Gor­ing over un­paid debts and un­ac­counted-for paint­ings.

“Ev­ery­one was knock­ing on his door,” said Dan McLeod, a lo­cal builder who helped con­struct the gallery.

While some peo­ple wrote off their losses, oth­ers set lawyers on Gor­ing, post­ing an­gry blogs and even call­ing po­lice in a bizarre se­ries of dis­putes that il­lus­trates the some­times-ugly un­der­belly of the art world.

Gor­ing, who has since filed for bankruptcy and moved to Vic­to­ria where he works as a framer, told the Na­tional Post he al­ways as­sumed he could “sell my way” out of his debts, which was a mis­take.

“I did a lot of things wrong, lost what lit­tle money I had, and most of my friends,” he said. “It was a shit-show of my own mak­ing.”

Gor­ing, who had pre­vi­ously run a frame shop, chose an old Home Hard­ware lo­ca­tion to open a gallery called Art Worx.

Gor­ing turned to On­tario art whole­saler James White to sup­ply him with a num­ber of Mor­ris­seau and other paint­ings. Under a con­sign­ment agree­ment, each time Gor­ing sold one of White’s paint­ings, he was to pay White the whole­sale price be­fore pock­et­ing the rest.

When White learned in July 2014 the gallery was shut­ting, he went to B.C. to try to re­cover his paint­ings. Gor­ing turned over 13, but 22 pieces — with a re­tail value of $221,000 — were un­ac­counted for.

“We have been friends for years, our fam­i­lies have stayed with each other and I be­lieved we were close,” White wrote to Gor­ing af­ter his visit. “That is why I have tried to be­lieve in you and re­fused to ac­cept that you could steal from me and cre­ate a story of lies.”

“I have been sit­ting here, know­ing that this mo­ment would come and I have dreaded this more than any­thing in my life,” Gor­ing replied. He blamed slug­gish sales, high over­head costs and un­paid taxes. And then he cut to the chase: “I have no money and I also have none of your art.”

White as­serted in a De­cem­ber 2015 state­ment of claim that Gor­ing had ei­ther “stolen most of the miss­ing paint­ings” or had “traded away (White’s) paint­ings in ex­change for ser­vices or for money re­ceived which was not re­ported.”

Gor­ing never filed a re­sponse and in an April 10 de­ci­sion, On­tario Su­pe­rior Court Judge Joseph Fragomeni found that Gor­ing had com­mit­ted civil fraud and breach of trust and awarded White $170,000 in gen­eral dam­ages and $10,000 in puni­tive dam­ages. The judge also gave Gor­ing 90 days to ac­count for each of the miss­ing paint­ings.

Gor­ing told the Post he was un­aware of the law­suit and as­sumed he had re­solved the dis­pute when he let White put a lien on his mother’s estate. Nev­er­the­less, he promised to “own my re­spon­si­bil­ity in this.”

Aside from one or two oc­ca­sions when some­thing might have “slipped through,” he de­nied sell­ing other peo­ple’s art with­out pay­ing them.

As word of the On­tario judg­ment spread, many of Gor­ing’s de­trac­tors on Van­cou­ver Is­land be­gan to speak out.

McLeod said he and sev­eral trades­peo­ple who helped con­struct the gallery were out tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

He said Gor­ing tried to pay off some of that debt by giv­ing him three paint­ings. How­ever, when he learned those paint­ings — plus two more he bought off Gor­ing — be­longed to White and that White hadn’t been paid for them, he im­me­di­ately worked to set­tle things with White by pay­ing for two more of his paint­ings.

McLeod said sev­eral trades­men re­ceived paint­ings as pay­ment.

Gor­ing said he felt “in­tim­i­dated” by McLeod and so he gave him a hand­ful of paint­ings. He said he couldn’t re­call gift­ing paint­ings to any­one else.

Port Al­berni artist Brad Pi­atka, who died in 2016, had a long-sim­mer­ing feud with Gor­ing, said Pi­atka’s friend, Rob Longeuay.

One day in 2014, the two vis­ited Gor­ing to check on Pi­atka’s paint­ings and dis­cov­ered about five were un­ac­counted for. Af­ter press­ing for an­swers, Gor­ing said a cou­ple were “on loan,” Longeuay re­called. Con­cerned that Gor­ing wasn’t pay­ing Pi­atka prop­erly, they de­cided to re­turn and gather up all of Pi­atka’s re­main­ing work.

Longeuay fol­lowed up with a stern Face­book mes­sage in late 2014. “Brad is wait­ing for his $1000. … Just pay up and re­turn his paint­ings!” Days later, he filed a com­plaint with the RCMP. De­spite as­sur­ing the of­fi­cer that the $1,000 debt would be paid, Gor­ing never paid up, Longeuay said.

Gor­ing con­firmed that some of Pi­atka’s art was used tem­porar­ily in show homes but that they were re­turned. He in­sisted the $1,000 debt was paid.

Gor­ing in­sists he’s not try­ing to play the vic­tim, but says he can’t help but feel “let down” by the arts com­mu­nity.

“The mo­ment ev­ery­thing went bad it was just like, ev­ery­body just — I was left there alone with no sup­port af­ter I sup­ported all these peo­ple,” he said.

“I know this is go­ing to sound crazy, but I’m an hon­est guy.”

I HAVE NO MONEY AND I ALSO HAVE NONE OF YOUR ART.

SPIR­ITS JOUR­NEYS BY NOR­VAL MOR­RIS­SEAU

Paint­ings by cel­e­brated Cana­dian artist Nor­val Mor­ris­seau are among those that James White, an art whole­saler in On­tario, says he con­signed to Mar­lowe Gor­ing and that re­main un­ac­counted for.

Mar­lowe Gor­ing

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