Keith Talent is a Crook and Cheat

 From Artillery, Vol. 5, Issue 3, January/February 2011

Dear Editor,

I just read your article about the Tom of Finland theft . It was a good read, but I was suprised that you didn’t mention one juicy fact that U.S. audiences might enjoy. Keith Talent Gallery takes its name from a fictious character from the Martin Armis novel London Fields. In the novel, Talent is a petty crook and cheat — just like the gallery owners, messrs, Clarkin and Pittuck turned out to be.

Alun Williams, Brooklyn, NY

Comment by SHARP  – More on the fictional character, “Keith Talent”

London Fields is a black comic novel murder mystery by British writer Martin Amis.

The characters have few, if any, redeeming features.

Recently arrived in London, he immediately meets Keith Talent, a cheat (i.e. a small-time criminal)…

Keith regularly cheats on and abuses his wife. He regularly sleeps with an underage girl in return for cash payments to her mother. He drinks, gambles, and takes part in burglaries and semi-violent crime (although he is unable to follow through with actual violent crime). He is addicted to pornography and television to the extent that he is unable to distinguish reality from what is shown on the screen. He has raped several women in the past (including his wife).

A witless, wife-beating darts enthusiast, ”Keith cheated people with his limousine service at airports and train stations; he cheated people with his fake scents and colognes at the pavement stalls of Oxford Street and Bishopsgate . . . he cheated people with non-pornographic pornography in the back rooms of short-lease stores. . . . Keith earned three times as much as the Prime Minister and never had any money, losing heavily every day at the turf accountants on Portobello Road. . . .

“Keith Talent was a bad guy. Keith Talent was a very bad guy. You might even say that he was the worst guy. But not the worst, not the very worst ever. There were worse guys. Where?”


Nov./Dec. 2010 Artillery Magazine – Tom of Finland Art Theft

Published in Artillery Magazine Nov./Dec. 2010 Vol. 5 Issue 2
By Tucker Neel

To Catch A Thief: Why it’s not a good idea to steal from muscled men in leather and chains

In 2007, Tom of Finland Foundation launched a traveling exhibition of over 100 artworks by the prolific artist, with 80+ works from the permanent collection, and around 20 more available for sale. The tour started out at Gallerie Richard in Paris, where Tom’s work was received with great fanfare. Then it was off to The Keith Talent Gallery in London.

One of the stolen works: 
Tom of Finland 1984 signed and dated rough sketch pencil on paper, 
9 x 13”, Tom of Finland Foundation, USA

Soon after the opening, the gallery’s owners, Andrew Robert Clarkin and Simon Pittuck, contacted the Foundation saying they had sold one of Tom’s drawings. They requested a Certificate of Authenticity for the work, which Durk Dehner, the President and cofounder of the Foundation, signed and mailed to the gallery. All seemed in order until the show arrived at Galerie Espacio Minimo, its next destination in Madrid, and eight important works from the Permanent Collection were missing from the shipment.

Once Keith Talent gallery claimed that they had no idea where the missing works were, Dehner and the Foundation began to get concerned. After Keith Talent refused to file a claim with their insurance company (it later became evident that they had not secured insurance for Tom’s work), and after the gallery failed to pay the Foundation for sold work, Dehner enlisted the help of high-priced London lawyers, Scotland Yard, and, most importantly, the Tom of Finland network, which was able to send out an SOS alerting anyone who had recently bought Tom’s work that they may have been sold stolen goods. Eventually one anonymous but cooperative collector came forward with the work he thought he had purchased legally, and was willing to testify against Clarkin and Pittuck. During this time, the London gallery did curiously return five of the missing works to the Foundation, with a short note attached explaining that the work turned up in a room that, since the exhibition (more than a year earlier), had been turned into an artist’s studio.

Soon after, Scotland Yard raided the gallery and arrested the two owners. During the trial in January of this year it became evident that the two had knowingly sold work from the permanent collection, that Pittuck had had forged Certificates of Authenticity for the work, and that they had put money from the sale in a joint bank account. Because the two dealers had no priors and had lost all credibility in their profession, Clarkin’s 10 month, and Pittuck’s 14 month, prison sentences were suspended and they were ordered to each carry out 150 hours of community service, and pay £5,700 to the collector to whom they sold the drawings, as well as over £1,000 in legal fees. As of this writing they have failed to make their full payments on time and are expected to return to court soon.  Tom of Finland Foundation has not received any compensation for expenses related to this trial and are considering filing a civil suit against the former gallery owners.

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Following a lengthy investigation into the disappearance of eight original drawings belonging to the permanent collection of Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF), charges were brought against Simon Pittuck and Andrew Robert Clarkin, co-directors of the Keith Talent Gallery in London. They were brought before Snaresbrook Crown Court in London on Monday January 25, 2010 and changed their plea to guilty just as the trial was due to commence. Pittuck and Clarkin were both found guilty of the theft of three drawings that had been entrusted to their care.

Their actions were described by presiding Judge Radford, as ‘a wholly dishonest piece of behaviour entirely for gain’. As part of that ‘enterprise’, Simon Pittuck was also found guilty of causing three certificates of authenticity to be forged in order to make a sale. The purchaser of those three works, an art collector in London, restored the works to their rightful owners in 2009, when he became aware that they had been sold to him without the permission of Tom of Finland Foundation, on whose behalf the Keith Talent Gallery were meant to be acting.

After hearing the representations of the prosecuting barrister and of the counsel for each defendant, the judge concluded that the two men were equally responsible for these criminal acts. The money received from the sales of the three drawings had gone into a joint account, assisted by the forged certificates, and this was a joint enterprise for profit from selling other people’s property ‘wholly dishonestly’.

Both Clarkin and Pittuck were found guilty of THEFT and FRAUD. In addition, Pittuck was found guilty of FORGERY. On the first counts, each of the defendants was given ten months of imprisonment suspended for twelve months. Simon Pittuck was given an additional four months of imprisonment on the further counts, to run concurrently, also suspended for twelve months. Each defendant will have to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work for the benefit of the community by January 25, 2011, the exact details to be instructed later, and each will have to repay, within 28 days, the collector to whom they sold the drawings. Pittuck and Clarkin were ordered to pay towards the costs of the prosecution. Should either defendant fail to meet these conditions, he will be brought back before the court for resentencing, and will then face the prospect of the custodial sentence stated above.

In handing down his sentence, Judge Radford commented that Andrew Clarkin and Simon Pittuck had both now lost their reputation for honesty, especially in relation to any future commercial arrangements.

Tom of Finland Foundation incurred considerable costs (legal and otherwise) in investigating the disappearance of the drawings, all of which have now been recovered.