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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Punk Private Eye

More detective work from Haidee Findlay-Levin...

As I suspected, the controversy surrounding Malcolm McLaren and Simon Easton [first reported here in April, then again in July] has really blown up in the press, with furious attacks from Malcolm McLaren against alleged con artist Simon Easton, followed by equally vitriolic and somewhat inconsistent retaliations. There is not only the matter of Seditionaries' provenance and punk's legacy, but huge sums of money have exchanged hands in the selling of these artifacts, threats of legal action have been hurled and now established institutions such as Sotheby’s, Christie's and the Met appear concerned with the authenticity of their collections. For the sake of simplicity, I thought it best to actually show you the differences between authentic McLaren/Westwood pieces from the '70s and fakes sold to Damien Hirst by Easton, or loaned to him for consideration, alongside notes from McLaren himself. These photos are all from Hirst's office. (By the way, if you're as intrigued by all of this as much as we are, Paul Gorman is an established authority on this period and these clothes. Check out his very informative blog.)

Click images to enlarge...



AUTHENTIC:
This Anarchy Shirt is a 1960's vintage Wemblex shirt that McLaren & Westwood customized. When McLaren couldn't personally wear out the lot of 50 vintage shirts they'd bought, they decided to customize the remaining 30-40 shirts and sell them in their store at 430 Kings Road. The result was called the "Anarchy Shirt" because the slogans refer to the Anarchist movements in Europe. McLaren was a student during the 1968 French student revolts, which framed his critique.

- The cut is short and square.
- The collar is rounded and has a pin through it, a popular style in the 60s.
- Parts of the shirt have been turned inside out, showing the interior pinstripe print only on the collar, shoulders, facing, cuff and bottom edging of the shirt as a key element McLaren & Westwood created was to make clothes look "wrong." The rest of the shirt is plain.
- The label is a faded original Seditionaries label.
- The color is reddish.
- The patch is a portrait of Karl Marx. Only his portrait was ever used because McLaren and Westwood liked his beard, and because he was a writer of ideas, and not a politician. It was his book that started the Socialist and workers movements in the 19th Century. He also lived in London at one point.
- Slogans are all written in neat handwriting using a twig on dyed patches which had not fully dried. All slogans refer to the Anarchist movement, i.e. "A bas de Coca Cola" (popular French anti-American graffiti), "Only Anarchists are Pretty" and "Buenaventura Durruti and the Black Hand Gang" (anarchists in the Spanish Civil War).
- Buttons have been replaced with simple studs.
- Stenciling on sleeve is in small type.
- Stripes and washes of color are hand-painted onto the shirt.
- The back of shirt does not have patches or other detailing, only simple washes of color.




FAKE:
- This shirt has the wrong spelling in the slogan. It says "Buanoven... durutti..." instead of "Buenaventura Durutti"
- It has poor handwriting
- The colors and buttons are wrong.
- The label is not white with black type.
- The slogan "God Save the Queen" was never used on this shirt, which had nothing to do with the Sex Pistols.
- Says McLaren: "We never put anything on the back. There's nothing more gross than that! The shirt was never meant to be a sandwich board. We didn't treat people like that. There were, believe it or not, even within the punk anti-fashion aesthetic, a certain sartorial elegance. So much on the original was considered, whereas this is a mishmash."




FAKE:
- This has the wrong color completely, and it has no stripes.
- The cut is different.
- The collar is pointed, not round.
- It has epaulettes and strange black buttons.
- The slogan is wrong. "Fuck the Rich Up the Arse" was a slogan used on the Oliver Twist Dickens T-shirts, but never on the Anarchy shirt, which was connected to anarchic movements in Spain, France and elsewhere.
- The patch has the portrait of the wrong man, Lenin.




FAKE:
- McLaren calls this shirt "absurd." He & Westwood never made any prints with American Express. It was not a card that was so common at the time. Also, the cut of shirt is totally contemporary.


Finally, here are more recent developments...
- Westwood and her son with McLaren, Joe Corre, have given their support in stopping Easton's activities.
- In an email from Damien Hirst to McLaren, Murray Fenton was confused with Murray Blewett, a former Westwood employee. Fenton, who openly manufactures reproductions, believes that some of the shirts that were bought from him were tampered with and, unbeknownst to him, passed off as authentic. Murray Fenton is not, in any way, in cahoots with Simon Easton.
- Testimony has come to light from someone who bought a fake from Easton online, argued with him about its authenticity and eventually got his money back, but not before concluding Easton is ignorant of the subject. Another person bought an alleged fake from Easton and is still waiting to be reimbursed. Meanwhile, he has sent the item to a London reporter.
- Paul Gorman, a major authority on Seditionaries, has looked at the Hirst clothes and testified they are all fakes.
- Examples from the Met exhibit Anglomania are said to be potentially fake. The Met has been contacted and said they will investigate.
- Someone at the vintage store Resurrection had a bad run-in with Easton, apparently considering doing an exhibit of his "collection" until it was realized the clothes were fake.
- Easton keeps pretending there are clothes McLaren doesn't know about because of licenses, etc. Sure, St. Marks place is filled with fakes, but that is not what Easton is selling to collectors and museums. In his postings on eBay, he claims the clothes to be not only "original" and "circa 1977" but that he is the only dealer "affiliated" with McLaren, the only dealer who has sold to the Met, and the only dealer to have his clothes photographed in Vogue.

And so the saga continues....

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