Over $10 million worth of art seized from Oak Bay art dealer: police

Saanich police say officers seized artwork valued in the tens of millions of dollars from an Oak Bay art dealer.

The investigation began on April 11 when police were contacted by an art owner. The owner said he contacted an Oak Bay art gallery and consigned four works of art. The exhibits were three original paintings by Emily Carr and a watercolor by David Blackwood. The art gallery closed and the owner of the art failed to contact the dealer, which made him suspicious.

When police investigated, officers found there were several other victims who had donated artwork on consignment and then stopped responding to communications. Over a thousand exhibits were recovered following the execution of three search warrants in Saanich, Oak Bay and Langford. The first search located 600 coins, the second over 100 coins and the third just over 300 coins.

const. Saanich Police’s Markus Anastasiades told CHEK News that this would be the highest property seizure by Saanich Police in the past 30 years. Not only in the amount of exhibits we are protesting at this time, but the dollar value,

“The investigation started with three, four works of art, and has really taken over to become one of the biggest real estate cases the department has seen. moment, but also by dollar value,” Anastasiades said.

The art is now being held in a safe place by the police.

Police are not releasing the art dealer’s name until charges are brought to court, but they arrested the dealer on April 21 and released him on multiple conditions with a July court date.

Charges of fraud and false pretense are recommended.

“The dealer was taking artwork from people with the intention of entrusting or appraising the art, later ending contact, while selling the art without reimbursing owners or artists,” Anastasiades said. in a press release.

“Many of the pieces have an emotional component for the artists or their families and some of them have been left in the dark for a long time,” Anastasiades said.

Photographer David Ellingsen says he lost $4,000 after contacting an art dealer at Winchester Galleries in Oak Bay.

“I probably don’t expect to see this, but for an artist it’s a good amount of money and that’s how I make a living. So that’s important,” Ellingsen said.

Ellingsen entrusted some of his own works to the dealer, but heard nothing more. He was told that his art had been sold without his knowledge and that he had not received any money for the sale. When he learns that the gallery is closing its doors, he rushes to the remains of his work.

“I think now that I’ve read all these press articles, I see that I’m very lucky to get all of my artwork back,” Ellingsen said.

Police have not confirmed whether the now-closed Winchester Galleries are linked to this latest seizure. None of these allegations have been proven in court.

Detectives are in contact with the artists, families or owners of the art with the aim of returning the artwork to the rightful owners.

“We believe individuals have attempted to recover their artwork associated with the Oak Bay Gallery, but have been unsuccessful. We are asking these individuals to contact Saanich Police by email at [email protected].”

This is a developing story. More will be added as details become available.

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