Alas, now Gone as Goldie.
Sad news today.
Scanning through facebook while at work, I spied an announcement on a friends page commenting on the passing of an 89 year old gentleman. It was the notice of the passing of the exuberant and intently alive-till-the-end Karl F Sim, also legally known as Carl Feodor Goldie. A article was published also on stuff.co.nz, and a short clip on Radio NZ – including the voice of Carl into the report.
Carl came to national attention in the early 80’s as the first convicted art forger in the country. He was arrested for a dodgy Rita Angus painting, and from that unfolded further discoveries of other forgeries. Carl painted in the style of many artists, by the 18th C English painter in NZ, C F Goldie, was a personal favourite.
A court case was held, there was a sentence passed down akin to a slap on the wrist with a wet bus-ticket. Then to ice the cake, Carl walked out of the court room into the Government offices next door to the court house, and changed his name by deed poll to that of the long dead and favoured painter C F Goldie, legitimising his ability to continue to paint and sign under the C F Goldie moniker. A great prank!
At least that is how I recall the recounting of the story. I believe the truth could often be a flexible commodity in Carl’s stories. Why would you let boring facts get in the way of a good story. An approximation of the truth is near enough to clear enough perhaps? But without malice, only mirth.
I vaguely remember this story first time around as a lad, but then recalled and hunted out some articles in the last few year when pondering on what local personalities deserve more public attention than those who current get it. I came across the book ‘Good as Goldie‘ by Tim Wilson and Carl, it is mostly written from Carl’s perspective, and in his voice.
One thing flowed into another, time passed, we had written and recorded our song with the same title of the book, our small effort to return this fabulous story into the public narrative.
During this period we traveled to Auckland for a show. We made a detour through the back/main street of Mangaweka, just because, and there we noticed an art gallery was holding a Fakes and Forgers exhibition, with Carl as ‘Special Guest’. This memory was filed away and time past. We returned to Mangaweka some time later, on tour again, and this time with the intention to deliver the song to the gallery in the hope that it will find it’s way into Carl’s hands. Two discs were slid under the door of a closed shop.
Early in the new year Marie, the gallery owner, emailed us and invited us to Managweka to play our song to Goldie as part of a commemoration and celebration of the opening of a museum in honour of Carl’s antic and artistic out-workings. Needless to say, we went and played and reveled in the chance to meet such a grand bloke and his two dynamic sisters. There’s something in this families genetic stock that we could argue would be good to fortify our bread, milk or water supply with, such energy, vital living, and dynamism for life.
The museum was a beauty as well! And even better, we got the opportunity to spend the night in the same lodge with Carl and Margaret. Precious hours full of delight, they were both excellent story tellers, with a vast life of unrestrained experience to draw upon. Joyous.
The last time I saw him was in 2012, in his Orewa residence [the photo top left]. He still got round the house, was still signing his name to drawings and selling them, and still spinning yarns. I doubt the pranks ever stopped. On this afternoon he gave me a copy of a new book called The 10 Greatest Art Forgers by Bonnie Sheppard, published in Canada. It is a genuine signed copy…of a colour photocopy of the original…a signed fake version of a book about forgeries. Anyway, this book listed Carl as number 8 in the list of the 10 best art forgers of the world. It goes on to state that “Karl Sim stands at #8 on our list even though he had far more convictions than van Meegeren who is ranked #2. This is because Sim’s crimes mostly affected only New Zealand. If they had had more global impact, he might have been ranked higher.”
So some sadness in saying farewell, but so glad to have met you. What a life, lived till the very end I hope.
The first night with Carl around the table in Mangaweka with food and whiskey [though he had a colourful past with the liquor Carl was now sober] Carl discussed the book Good as Goldie that had been published. He then said that there is also a SECOND book waiting in the wings for publishing after he dies. With a wicked grim and glinting eye he stated that its full of the many other exploits that he NEVER got caught for! He’d say that he would flick through Dunbar Slone or Te Papa art catalogs and recognise many works of HIS that still were being cited as originals. I SO hope this story is true and that such a book is published. Fingers crossed.
See ya Carl